In this article we'll focus on the last piece of billiard improvements which is the cue itself.
Cue construction, even in the early days, was more an art than a science. Billiard cues, even going back to the early maces, were probably the most artistic of all the items associated with the game itself. Early maces were hand carved ivory and inlaid jewels and gold. They were probably worth as much as the whole table itself.
With the advances made in industry in the 1800s cues were not only made beautifully but they could now be mass produced in a variety of styles. Probably the greatest cue manufacturer of the era was B. Finck Company. It was said that their cues in both beauty and quality was unequalled by anyone. Their cues were used by the finest players in Europe. Eventually they became the largest cue manufacturer on the continent.
By 1879 Finck had more than 160 cues in its catalogue. They made both one and two piece cues in many designs and styles. They even made cues that were designed for specific games and for all levels of society, from the lowest commoner to the highest in royalty. They also specialized in what were called "cues for kings." These cues were extremely expensive, made with inlaid gold and very rare gems. Most of the cues were actually purchased by the kings as more of a status symbol and were very rarely used in actual play. Finck also created custom cues which were awarded as prizes in various tournaments across the land.
Since Finck, many other famous cue makers came onto the scene including Britner, Rambow, Paradise, Balner, Martin, Szamboti and Balabushka. All of these companies, even today, make cues that are considered a symbol of excellence and are valued as true treasures.
There are many variations in the cues that are made. They are dictated by the game itself. For example, billiard cues are stiffer than pool cues because billiard balls are heavier than pool balls. Other variations include the type of wood that is used which will determine how light or heavy the cue itself is, as some prefer a heavier cue to a lighter one.
A good part of the reason that billiard cues were able to be made so well and attractive was the art of marquetry, which is the art of making designs or pictures with thin pieces of wood, shell or other materials. This art has been a part of billiard cue making almost right from the beginning. Floral, geometric or other inlaid designs have greatly added to the beauty of tables and cues. Precious gems and metals have also been used in this art. Even the art of "finishing," which Stradavari used on his violins, was also used on cues and tables.
The truth is, one of the main reasons for billiards popularity is the beauty of the game pieces itself.
In our last article in this series we're going to show how billiards made its way to America.
Your Independent guide to Billiards
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