The high-precision detection for surface defect of ceramic balls, widely used in precise bearings, is a challenging task. Due to the fact that some defects cannot be directly detected by the gray-level of images, we propose a method for surface defect detection based on fringe reflection. Based on specular characteristics of ceramic balls, this method utilizes flat screens with fringes drawn on them. If a ceramic ball is nondefective, the image, formed by reflection on its surface, presents even fringes. The distortion of fringes designed by a reverse exact ray-tracing method occurs at the defective region of ceramic balls. During experiments conducted with silicon nitride (Si3N4) ceramic balls, images are captured by a CMOS camera with high resolution and processed by specific algorithms. Experimental results demonstrate the feasibility of this method, which can be applied for high-precision detection for surface defect of ceramic balls and other objects with similar characteristics.