Have you ever wondered, what are dominoes made of?
Like so many other games, the game of dominoes has a long and rich history. Here, we’ll be looking at what dominoes are and how domino manufacturers evolved their products with the times, and the effects that has had on the game so far!
Without further ado, here we go!
What Are Dominoes?
Dominoes are small, flat, rectangular tiles that are used to play games. These rigid materials are necessary for a game of dominoes as they carry identifying marks on one surface while the other surface is left blank.
The game of dominoes draws its origins from ancient China where the game is said to have been played as far back as the 10th century!
Chinese domino games gained a lot of popularity and were readily welcomed in the west. This led to the creation of Western dominoes. The major difference between these two sets of dominoes styles is in the pattern of the numbering and the number of pieces used in the game.
European domino sets typically contain 28 pieces while the Chinese sets have 32 pieces.
However, another version of this game played by the Inuit of North America replaces this 28 piece domino set with 148 pieces!
A Brief Glimpse at the History of Dominoes
The physical materials used to make the commercial domino have changed profoundly since the game was first created.
Before discussing what most modern dominoes are made of, let’s touch briefly and concisely on the timeframes where common domino sets experienced major change.
Dominoes in the 12th Century
As was mentioned earlier, the game of dominoes originated from China.
Back then, the 32 piece Chinese domino set was made of actual animal bone! However, the more elite members of the society back then often used ivory to make each domino tile.
Dominoes in the 18th Century
By this time Western dominoes had become a favorite pastime. Again, the tiles were made of actual animal bone. Again, wealthier players favored ivory dominoes.
It bears mentioning that domino games entered the United Kingdom in the 18th century via French prisoners-of-war who made each domino tile by carving cow and sheep bones. The prisoners would then sell the tiles to make money.
Not long after, sailors took up the game as well. However, most sailors made their double tile domino playing cards using tagua nut. Domino tiles made of tagua nut were more popular because they could almost pass for real ivory in terms of structure and color. The only real difference was that they were softer than actual ivory.
Dominoes in the 19th Century
Domino manufacture saw a significant leap forward in 1855 as that was when Charles Lepage invented the first plastic. Known as Bois Durci, this material was said to have been made specifically for dominoes.
The very next year, another plastic for making bulk dominoes was invented. Known as Parkesine, this material was very popular among domino manufacturers at the time as well. However, the unstable nature of the compound forced people to stop using it to make domino racks and tiles.
Figuring out what dominoes are made of today would be incomplete without mentioning aluminum. This is because the 19th century was also when the use of basic aluminum and tinplate for playing domino games became popular.
Dominoes in the 20th Century
The successes in the 19th century were followed closely with Bakelite, the brainchild of Leo Baekeland. For the next 20 years, this would be the material of choice for making domino racks and tiles.
In the latter half of the 20th century, plastic from petroleum was developed and this took over Bakelite, which brings us to the 21st century.
What Are Dominoes Made of Today
Since it’s considered one of several adaptations of card games, modern dominoes are predominately made from materials like metals, plastic, wood, and stone.
Although quite nice, these rectangular tiles aren’t very popular. Typically made from high-end, aluminum dominoes metals, these tiles are more often found in business settings. They come with painted pips and don’t really stand out.
However, the more high-quality ones are rarely seen but are known to command a considerably higher price tag.
These typically come in two varieties.
There’s the basic domino variant made from cheap wood that’s highly inexpensive and can even be used by kids for fun. However, these might not be very durable and long-lasting.
On the other hand, you have the dominoes made from quality wood and with the finest craftsmanship. Many consider these works of art and some people even buy sets that they never actually use.
You get an abundance of variety here as well. What’s interesting to note here is that as technology advances, more types of plastics are used to make domino game sets.
However, the two types you’re most likely to pick up in a regular store are urea and acrylic dominoes. These come with different quality levels and design styles.
These are perhaps the least popular type of domino materials. Usually made from marble, these are quite beautiful and are mostly only made by skilled craftsmen.
As they are considered antique dominoes, you’re not likely to encounter these in just any store.
Now you know what dominoes are made of!
While it probably doesn’t matter to amateur domino players, knowing what each tile is made of improves the playing experience for more veteran players. Of course, what matters most is that you have a great time playing the game!