Close-up of a pair of amber eyes looking into the distance

How rare are amber eyes and what makes them unique?

17 Aug 2023

Do your eyes sparkle a golden colour in the light? If so, you might just be one of the lucky few to have inherited a pair of striking amber eyes. Lots of people mistake them for hazel or brown, but actually, this colour is extremely rare and distinctive. Very few people in the world have them. Find out more about this captivating eye colour and what makes it so unique.

How many people have this eye colour?

It is estimated that only 5% of the population has this special eye colour. Amber is far more common among animals like dogs, cats and owls. It’s hard to quantify exactly how many people have this eye colour because it is one of the rarest and of course, numbers will vary according to where you are in the world at the time. Amber-coloured eyes are more common among individuals of Spanish descent. This is also true of people born in South America, South Africa and Asia.

Close-up of a dark amber eye seen through a pair of round black metal frames

What do amber-coloured eyes look like?

Somewhere between yellow and orange on the colour spectrum, amber can be described as a honey-yellow colour. The name originates from the material of the same name which is a fossilized tree resin. Amber-coloured eyes vary in colour, ranging from bright golden to a warmer yellowish-brown tone.

Fun fact, you might recall the mosquitos were famously embedded in amber in the Jurassic Park movie! They extracted dinosaur DNA from them.

How do your eyes become this colour?

The colour of your eyes, as with your skin and hair, depends on the presence of melanin pigments. There are two forms of melanin known as eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin is brownish-black and pheomelanin is a reddish-yellow colour. Amber gets its colour from these two types of melanin. It is believed that amber eyes have a large amount of pheomelanin, also referred to as lipochrome. This is the reason why eyes this colour appear a yellowish-brown with a hint of gold or copper.

The genetics behind your eye colour

Genetics also play a big role in the colour of your eyes. Amber is a rare eye colour that is most commonly inherited in a recessive pattern, whereby both parents pass the same gene variants to their children.

However, both parents don’t always have to have amber-coloured eyes. Other eye colours, like green and blue, can also result in the next generation inheriting this trait. Though less likely, recessive genes from brown eyes can also create this colour.

In lots of cases, one genetic mutation can impact an entire family’s eye colour. This is why it is possible for different individuals within one family to have different coloured eyes. Despite this, amber eyes can remain strong throughout the generations if passed down consistently.

Close-up of a light amber eye

Amber vs. brown eyes

Amber and brown eyes have the same pigments as each other, however, amber-coloured eyes tend to be lighter in colour because they have more reddish-brown pheomelanin. On the other hand, brown eyes have more eumelanin which tends to be a brown or black colour. Some might think that amber is just a lighter version of brown, yet in truth, it usually has a yellowish or orange tone.

Amber vs hazel eyes

Many people believe amber and hazel eyes are the same and while they are similar in many ways, they are actually very different. Hazel is a mixture of green, brown and gold colours, in contrast, amber-coloured eyes tend to be a golden or yellow colour. They also have a more consistent tone, whilst hazel eyes feature flecks of different colours.

What glasses look good with my amber eyes?

Amber-coloured eyes tend to be a golden yellow colour without any blue, brown or green flecks. For a stylish and refined look, we would suggest you try a simple black or dark tortoiseshell frame. If you want to stand out from the crowd, then contrast your eye colour with a bright blue or purple frame. Go for an azure, plum or lavender. These colours are opposite on the colour wheel and therefore will enhance your natural golden glow perfectly!