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Roger Weller, geology instructor

by Amber Partington
Physical Geology
Spring 2007


The Many Colors of Amber

When people think of amber, they think of those yellowish rocks from Jurassic Park that contain insects inside them.  Most people don't want to know more about amber and cannot imagine the beauty that it truly contains.  Amber can be found naturally in so many different colors and shades.  Some of these colors even change depending on the light that is shining on the petrified sap.  Among the colors amber can be found in there is, in order of commonness from the greatest to least, there is yellow, black, green, white, red, and blue.  There are many colors to choose from in amber.  However, colored amber is rare and comes at a higher price than the more common yellow amber.  Most amber is translucent, but some is transparent.  In fact, the clear amber is the most valuable type. 

            photo by R.Weller/Cochise College

         Clear amber makes up only about one in every ten amber specimens.  It can be found in the same colors as translucent amber, but its price is always higher if is is transparent.  The piece above is thirty-six grams and it's price is $94.00 at the Amberizon Jewelery Shop.  Usually, people want the transparent amber for their jewelry and collections.  In clear amber, any insects, or whatever is trapped inside the stone can be easily seen.  The one above has no insects inside of it, but some even have plants or feathers inside.  There are occasionally even small animals such as snails or lizards trapped inside of the fossil, but that is very rare and very expensive.


photo by R.Weller/Cochise College


Yellow and brownish amber pieces are found around the world.  They make up more than two-thirds of the amber found in the world.  The original place it amber was found was in the Baltic Sea area, and this area is still the best market for amber both in quality and quantity.  However, wherever old fossilized trees can be found, amber may be found as well.  There has even been amber found in several states in the USA. 


photo by R.Weller/Cochise College

         Black amber accounts for about fifteen percent of the amber found.  However, it is not actually pure fossilized tree resin.  It has been mixed with the remains of the tree from which it came or other plant matter.  That does not make it any less appetizing.  When the specimen is made up entirely of carbonized coal, so there is little difference between jet and black amber.  Consequently jet is sometimes called black amber and visa versa.   When black amber is held up to the light, it will usually be another color.  The back-light shines through the amber and a different color will show.  This color is usually a dark red, blue, or brown.   It is criticized that the black amber is not truly black because of this property and some people deny that black amber even exists.  In my opinion, it is only more beautiful because of it's ability to show a different color in the light.  The cost of black amber is slightly more expensive than the common amber, but there is also not much of a demand for it.

           photo by R.Weller/Cochise College

         Green amber is very popular.  It only accounts for about two percent of the amber, but there is plenty of it found in the to supply the world.   The Dominican Republic is known for the best specimens of green amber.   The one in the picture is for sale at Amberica West for four hundred and eighty-nine dollars.  It weighs almost fifty-seven grams.  The cost goes up as the shade of green, or any other color, deepens in the rock.  Lighter amber, or yellow-green amber is less expensive.   The stone pictured is a very deep green.  That is rare to find, but you can see why it is so valued.  Green amber can also be treated by heating it and it will become even more beautiful as it becomes more transparent.  Also, the green will show better when it is set in silver. 



White amber is not talked about very much, and many people who know about green and blue amber still will not know about it.  White amber accounts for about one to two percent of the world's supply.  It is sometimes described as bony because of it's milky color, and it is sometimes three dollars per gram.  The interesting thing about white amber is that it usually has streaks and mixes of other colors in it.  It is will even have some transparent amber through it sometimes, and with each new color intrusion, the beauty of the amber is shown.

           photo by R.Weller/Cochise College

          The second most rare amber is red amber.  Only about one in every two hundred amber specimens are red.  The color is very authentic and can be very deep.  When people buy red amber, they buy it for the color and not for the insects that are found in some amber.   This amber is very expensive per gram, and the one in the picture above is worth more than the average red amber.  It is very unique.  Red amber is beautiful, but my personal favorite is blue amber. 

photo by R.Weller/Cochise College


Blue amber is the rarest of all the colors of amber.  It is captivating to anyone who beholds it.  However, blue amber is fairly new to the gem industry.  It must be caught in the right light, or it will look like every other piece of yellow-brown amber.  A fascinating property of blue amber is the color that it will change when a fluorescent light is shown on it.  It will be a dazzling bright blue because the fluorescents inside it will react to the light.  However, the same rock will look yellow or brownish when a white light source, such as the natural sunlight, shines from behind it.  That is why blue amber is my favorite.  It will change colors, and they are all beautiful.  Blue amber is almost completely found in the Dominican Republic.


Amber can no longer be thought of as simply the yellow-brownish color that we have come to associate it with.  Amber can be almost any shade of the rainbow, naturally or enhanced.  It is a beautiful gem, and will adorn any jewelry scheme, no matter which color you choose.  All of the colors of amber have their own beauty.