Amber isn’t always just the one colour, either. Clear and translucent amber results from flowing and dripping resin, often featuring layers from continuing flow on already dried resin. While others feature two or more colours or patterns, making these some of the most unique - and sought after - pieces on the market.
What Gives Amber Its Colour?
Two major factors influence the colour of amber. The first of these is the inclusion of bubbles found within the resin
. These bubbles block the light and limit its ability to pass through the amber. The more bubbles, the lighter the amber.
The second is the tree source that the amber originates from, with recent research showing that some colours are only found in certain trees. Though this colour can also be modified by dying or heating the amber, making it much darker - or lighter - in the process. It's these bubbles, imperfections and smaller details that often typify genuine amber, and help you to distinguish fake amber reproductions from the real thing
. Did You Know? The shade or transparency of amber can change depending on the degree of oxidation within the baltic amber.
How Is The Colour Of Amber Determined?
The examination and determination of amber colours is achieved through a multitude of different processes. First and foremost, an image of the amber is taken, and then analysed using the GemePro™ Sampler tool. This tool retrieves the gem’s average colour, as well as the dominant colours associated with certain areas within it. The resulting colours are then placed alongside a spectrum to contrast and compare, before a final decision is made.
It's important to note that GemePro analysis of amber is only possible with naturally occurring colours. While man made and other unnatural colours of amber can also be determined, they are often the results of modifications using common techniques, and expand the colours of Baltic Amber beyond its narrow selection of yellows, reds and browns.
Baltic Amber Colours
Red Amber - commonly referred to as ‘Cherry’ Amber - is an especially rare form of amber, making up just 2-3% of the amber found worldwide. Red Amber is formed when amber is exposed to very high temperatures - whether by the sun or forest fires - kickstarting an oxidation process where the amber interacts with oxygen and causes it to gradually change its colour. This process isn’t quick, either, taking anywhere from 50 to 70 years to complete.
Did You Know? Due to the rarity of Red Amber, it’s thought to have been worn exclusively by the rich and incredibly wealthy people of ancient times. Having been found in many historic graves.
The most common amber colour is the honey-colour yellow amber, which makes up around 70% of all amber and is the most easily recognised. Most often used in the creation of gorgeous baltic amber jewellery
. This Amber is found in the Baltic Sea region
, and gains its yellowish or brownish colour from thousands of small gas bubbles that form in the amber when volatile components of the resin evaporate.
These bubbles refract the light as it passes through, and give the amber the trademark yellow colour that so many are familiar with. The more bubbles found within the amber? The lighter the shade of yellow it will be.
Did You Know? 1mm² of baltic amber can contain upwards of 2,500 gas bubbles. Each of them measuring a tiny 0.5 to 0.0025mm in diameter.
A very small percentage of amber is bone white, which is caused by microscopic gas bubbles contained within. Making up just 2% of the world’s supply, white amber is exceedingly rare and is usually distinguished by its unique white hue, numerous textures and natural ornamentations.
This rare White Amber is formed as the volatile materials of resin evaporate very intensively in the heat of the sun, and the resin turns to foam. Compared to Yellow Amber, 1mm² of White Amber can contain upwards of 1,000,000 (that’s million!) micro-bubbles, each measuring a miniscule 0.0001-0.0008mm in diameter.
Did You Know? During ancient times, White Amber was often used to produce expensive medicines to treat heart conditions and ailments.
Highly valued by collectors across the world, some of the rarest amber on earth features a gorgeous, distinctive blue hue. Formed when resin floated down rivers before settling in soil saturated by pyrites
(FeS2), it’s these pyrites that work their way into the small cracks found within the resin and give it its distinctive blue tone.
To the naked eye, this blue colouring can be difficult to spot. Often appearing brown or yellow on first inspection. It’s when you hold this amber in the right light that it can be fully appreciated. This Blue Amber - making up just 0.2% of Amber worldwide - also contains fluorescents
, which turns the amber a bright, vibrant blue when it’s exposed to fluorescent light.
Did You Know? Blue amber is rarely found in the Baltic region. Instead, it’s most commonly found in the amber mines in the mountain ranges around Santiago, in the Dominican Republic.
Amber’s crystal-like structure often lends Green Amber the name of ‘Sugar’ Amber. Accounting for only around 2% of the amber found today, Green Amber is yet another rare colour of amber that is also highly popular. This rarity and popularity makes Green Amber one of the most expensive on the market, with darker green hues generally more expensive than their lighter counterparts.
Green Amber is formed when resin falls onto plants, where the resin reacts with the chlorophyll pigment
found within the plant itself. Its creation isn’t always natural, though ; it’s often manufactured manually through the process of heating yellow amber. Did You Know? Throughout history green amber was revered for its supposed ability to grant immortality and good luck to its wearers.
Black Amber (aka Oltu Stone) is actually a type of jet (lignite
), often found in eastern Turkey. Made up of just 10-15% Amber, the remaining 85-90% is composed of a mix of resin, soil, bark, leaf and plant fragments which is where the amber gets its distinctive black colouring.
As a result of its small percentage of amber, Black Amber is softer and more fragile than other colours, and is therefore more difficult for amber artisans to work with. If the craftsman or artisan keeps part of the natural shape when sanding the raw amber, the crust or inclusions give the finished product a natural variety of multi-colour tones. BDid You Know? Black amber makes up 10-15% of amber found worldwide.