Have you wondered what it would be like to have eyes that sparkle with golden and burnt hues? Amber eyes are one of the most unique and captivating occurrences in humans, animals, insects—even reptiles.
This blog post will explore the inspiring story behind this mysterious eye color. It will share a brief history, additional cultural symbolism, and many facts about the gene mutation that produces such beautiful irises.
Keep reading to discover why it's so special to have shimmering amber eyes.
How Rare Are Amber Eyes?
Like blue or gray eyes, amber eyes are so uncommon that only 5% of the global population have it. This makes them much rarer than the more commonly seen brown and green eye colors.
Those of Spanish descent have a greater chance of having amber eyes. This population possesses the highest number of people with the trait. Likewise, people from Asia, South Africa, and South America are likelier to have amber-colored eyes.
Light, bright shades of amber eyes are considered the most desirable due to their intense pigmentation and contrasting hues. Compared to other colors, amber eyes possess a unique depth and brightness that you can see from a distance.
What Amber Eyes Look Like (With Pictures)
Depending on the person, the color can range from a more intense golden hue to a softer, light golden brown shade.
What Causes Amber Eye Color?
The presence of melanin, much like the color of your skin and hair, determines your eye color. When light encounters the iris, melanin can cause it to scatter along the color spectrum.
This phenomenon, known as Rayleigh scattering, ultimately decides the unique color of your eyes. There are two kinds of melanin:
- Eumelanin — a pigment that appears black-brown in color and shows in high amounts in people with brown eyes.
- Pheomelanin — a reddish-yellow pigment that contributes to a yellowish tint in the eyes when present at higher levels. It contributes to the distinctive appearance of amber eyes.1
Genetics determines your eye color, making it a fixed trait from birth. Multiple genes, numbering at least 16, play a role in influencing eye color.
However, the complex interactions between these genes still puzzle scientists. The OCA2 gene stands out as it holds the key to melanin production.5
Genetics of Amber Eyes
A combination of pheomelanin and eumelanin causes amber eyes. A person typically inherits this distinctive eye color in a recessive pattern, meaning both parents must pass on the same gene variants for their child to develop this tint.
However, this trait isn't limited to two parents with amber eyes. Other eye colors, like blue and green, can often contribute to forming an amber hue. In rare cases, recessive genes from brown eyes can also cause this color.
In many instances, a single genetic mutation can alter the outcome of an entire family’s eye color. This is why having a mix of eye colors within the same family is possible. Amber eyes, however, can remain stable over generations if passed on consistently.
What’s the Difference Between Amber and Hazel Eyes?
Moreover, amber eyes have a unique light-brown ring around the pupil. This enhances their appearance and gives them a more vibrant look.
Amber eyes’ distinct color is due to the ray of light that passes through the corneal lens and reflects off its surface. This light then travels through the iris's pigment, which contains a higher concentration of pheomelanin.
In comparison, hazel eyes combine brown and green pigments with less pheomelanin present. Light disperses differently in hazel eyes, resulting in a more muted color.
Differentiating Amber Eyes from Brown Eyes
The main difference between amber eyes and brown ones is the amount of melanin produced. Generally, people with brown eyes possess more eumelanin than those with amber eyes.
Additionally, different lighting can affect the perception of both eye colors. Amber eyes may appear golden or brown, depending on the light reflected off them. In contrast, brown eyes stay the same regardless of the light.
The best way to distinguish amber eyes from brown is to look closely at them in various lighting conditions. If there's a stark contrast between the pupil and iris, your eyes are likely amber. Brown eyes will appear darker, with no distinct light reflection.
Differentiating Amber Eyes from Similar Eye Colors
People often mistake amber eyes for other eye colors, such as light brown, green, honey brown, or dark brown eyes. They even misinterpret it for blue eyes in certain lights.
Here's how to differentiate them:
- Light brown eyes. Typically a duller version of regular brown eyes and lack the intensity of amber eyes
- Green eyes. Have a yellow-green hue and contain more eumelanin than pheomelanin, while amber eyes contain a higher concentration of the latter
- Honey brown eyes. Usually lighter than regular brown eyes and have a hotter, yellowish tint (amber eyes have a distinctive golden hue and light-brown ring around the pupil)
- Dark brown eyes. Usually deeper than regular brown and have a dusky, almost-black hue (amber eyes are brighter and more vibrant)
Medical Implications of Amber Eyes
Having amber eyes is more than just a physical trait. It also carries some medical implications that you should be aware of.
Having amber eyes can make you more at risk of developing the following medical conditions:
- Uveal melanoma. Pheomelanin is linked to a greater risk of developing this aggressive eye cancer
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). People with amber eyes are at risk of developing this condition
- UV sensitivity. Amber eyes’ higher concentration of pheomelanin can make them more sensitive to sunlight, requiring adequate UV protection
Eye Care Tips For People With Amber Eyes
Like any other eye color, amber eyes need proper care and safety precautions to maintain their health and appearance. Consider these tips for optimal eye protection:
- Wear sunglasses with UV protection when outdoors
- Wear hats with wide brims when spending long periods of time in the sun
- Take breaks from long stretches of digital screen viewing
- Visit your eye doctor regularly for checkups and eye exams
- Choose lenses with blue light protection
- Eat a balanced diet
- Follow good hygiene practices to prevent infections
- Remove eye makeup before sleep
- Keep away from irritants and allergens
What Do Amber Eyes Symbolize?
Amber or gold eyes carry profound spiritual significance, encompassing various interpretations. Notably, these rare hues symbolize the radiant embrace of love.
Other associations with amber eyes include:7
- Purity and innocence
- Wisdom and knowledge
- Omens of good fortune
Amber eyes also hold significant meaning in Native American spirituality. They symbolize the potential for shamanic abilities and the gift of connecting with the spirit realm.8
What Celebrities Have Amber Eyes?
Amber eyes, although rare, are found in many celebrities. Here are some famous people with the trait:
- Justin Bieber
- Jennifer Garner
- Nicole Richie
- Jennifer Lopez
- Edward Cullen
- Jane Seymour
- Eliza Dushku
- Darren Criss
Amber-Colored Contact Lenses
Amber-colored contact lenses offer an easy way to change your eye color without surgery. Provided you take the necessary precautions, these lenses can be a great way to experiment with your look.
When selecting amber contact lenses, it's important to prioritize quality and safety. Always buy lenses from a trusted source and ensure they're FDA-approved.
Choose lenses with built-in UV protection to block out harmful rays if possible. You should also purchase lenses made from soft materials that are comfortable to wear and easy to clean.
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