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What races have amber eyes?

Eyes that appear amber in color are quite rare globally, occurring in less than 1% of the population. The appearance of amber eyes is the result of a genetic phenomenon that causes the production of a high concentration of lipochrome pigments in the iris. These pigments reflect light differently, leading to the amber hue.

What Causes Amber Eyes?

There are a few different factors that can lead to someone having amber eyes:

  • A high concentration of lipochromes in the iris – Lipochromes are yellow biochromes that are found throughout the human body. When concentrated in the iris, they absorb blue and violet light, causing the eyes to appear more yellow or amber.
  • Low melanin levels – Melanin is the pigment that gives eyes their basic color. People with low melanin levels are more likely to have light colored eyes, including amber.
  • The Rayleigh scattering effect – This phenomenon causes shorter wavelengths of light to scatter more easily than longer wavelengths. In amber eyes, the blue light scatters away while the longer amber wavelengths remain, enhancing the amber color.

So in summary, amber eyes are the result of having lower levels of melanin combined with higher concentrations of lipochromes in the iris. This causes blue light to scatter away, leaving eyes appearing more amber or light brown.

What Ethnic Groups Tend to Have Amber Eyes?

Amber eyes appear across a range of ethnicities and races, though they are exceptionally rare globally. Some of the main groups associated with amber eyes include:

Northern and Western Europeans

Amber eyes occur in higher frequencies among people of Northern and Western European descent. This includes countries like:

  • Ireland
  • The United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • The Netherlands
  • Finland

Experts estimate that amber eyes appear in about 1% of the populations in these countries. The light pigmentation common among Northern Europeans contributes to the potential for amber eyes.

Americans of European Descent

Amber eyes also regularly occur among Americans with genetic ties to Northern and Western Europe. Many Americans have ancestral links to countries like Germany, Ireland, and the UK where amber eyes are somewhat more common.

Central and West Asians

Some populations in Central and West Asian areas also demonstrate higher amber eye frequencies. This includes countries such as:

  • Afghanistan
  • Tajikistan
  • Iran

Experts believe amber eyes occur in up to 5% of the population in Afghanistan, for example. The combination of fair skin and hair with light eye colors contributes to this.

North Africans

North African regions have also had incidences of amber eyes, likely due to genetic links with Europe historically. This includes areas like:

  • Morocco
  • Algeria
  • Tunisia

However, amber eyes are still considered exceptionally unique even within these populations.

Detailed Breakdown of Amber Eye Frequencies by Race

Here is a more detailed look at the frequencies of amber eye color that have been observed in different racial and ethnic groups:

Race/Ethnicity Amber Eye Frequency
Northern European 1%
Western European 1%
Central/West Asian Up to 5%
North African Extremely rare
Middle Eastern Extremely rare
Eastern European Extremely rare
East Asian Extremely rare
South Asian Extremely rare
Southeast Asian Extremely rare
Sub-Saharan African Extremely rare
Native American Extremely rare
Pacific Islander Extremely rare
Australian Aboriginal Extremely rare

As seen, amber eyes specifically are quite unique even among European groups. Overall, amber colored eyes remain exceptionally rare among all global populations.

What Factors Make Amber Eyes More Likely?

Amber eyes depend on having low melanin content combined with higher lipochrome concentrations. So there are a few factors that can make amber eyes more likely:

  • Low Melanin – Fairer skinned people tend to have less melanin. Melanin deficiency increases the chances of having amber eyes.
  • Light Hair – Blonde and red hair are associated with less melanin. Light hair paired with light eyes can allow amber eyes to occur.
  • Light Eye Colors – Blue, green, and hazel eyes indicate less melanin. These eye colors make a transition to amber eyes more possible.
  • European Ancestry – European genetics favor lighter features and less melanin, increasing amber eye potential.
  • The OCA2 Gene – Variations in the OCA2 gene reduce melanin production. This gene mutation makes lighter eye colors like amber possible.

So in general, any genetics or features that reduce melanin while increasing lipochromes make amber eye color more likely to occur.

Amber Eyes and Geographic Ancestry

As mentioned earlier, amber eyes appear globally quite rarely. However, there are certain geographic ancestral links that make amber eyes more possible.

Some of the key geographic ancestral ties to amber eyes include:

  • Northern European – Ireland, the UK, Scandinavia. 1% frequency.
  • Western European – France, Germany, Netherlands. 1% frequency.
  • Central/West Asian – Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Iran. Up to 5% frequency.
  • North African – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia. Extremely rare.
  • Middle Eastern – Extremely rare amber eyes.

So in summary, amber eyes mainly show up in those with ancestral ties to areas like Northern Europe, Western Europe, and parts of Central/West Asia. Other parts of the world have extremely low incidences of amber eyes.

Differences Between Amber and Other Light Eye Colors

Amber eyes are often confused with other light eye colors like light brown, hazel, yellow, and green eyes. But there are a few key differences:

Eye Color Difference from Amber Eyes
Light Brown More melanin pigmentation than amber eyes
Hazel Contains a mix of amber, brown, green and gold
Yellow More vibrant and yellowish than amber eyes
Green Due to higher levels of lipochromes in the iris instead of low melanin like amber eyes

So while amber eyes may seem similar to other light eye colors, they are distinct in being specifically tied to low melanin levels combined with high lipochrome concentrations.

Is Amber a Rare Eye Color?

Yes, amber is considered globally one of the rarest eye colors. Estimates suggest amber eyes occur in less than 1% of the world’s population.

Even in Northern and Western Europe, where amber eyes are most common, they only appear in around 1-2% of the population typically.

The unusual genetics required to produce amber eyes means they will always be an exceptionally unique eye color anywhere in the world.

Can Eye Color Change to Amber Over Time?

In some cases, yes – eye color can shift towards amber over someone’s lifetime. Here are some ways this can happen:

  • Blue eyes may gain amber tones due to increasing lipochrome concentrations.
  • Green eyes shifting towards amber as melanin levels decrease with age.
  • Hazel eyes becoming more amber as the eye loses its greenish hues.
  • Light brown eyes getting lighter and more golden/amber through melanin loss.

However, a dramatic change from a very dark eye color like brown to amber is unlikely. Amber eyes are most likely to develop over time from blue, green, hazel or light brown eyed individuals.


In summary, amber eyes are a rare but beautiful eye color resulting from specific genetic factors like low melanin and high lipochromes. They occur most frequently among those with Northern and Western European ancestry, but remain very unique even in these populations.

Amber eyes stand out for their light golden or honey brown appearance. And their rarity around the world makes them a special and striking eye color wherever they occur.