It is probably the most popular, recognizable and one of the most common color, cognac (or whisky) amber comes mainly in treated form (initially transparent yellow), but can be also natural. Slow heating deepens the color, makes it more shimmering and bright than natural. Cognac amber is often autoclaved (treated with high pressure saturated steam at about 120°C/248°F) which results in inner cracking. The steam penetrates the amber’s structure and alter its color. That’s how decorative bubbles (or so-called “scales”) and shiny discs are created. Heating is a very cold technique that has been in use for hundreds of years to enhance amber’s natural color while autoclaving has been developed in the second half of the 20th century. There are several shades of cognac amber, varying from light honey to dark cognac, almost cherry shade.
Naturally transparent yellow amber (about 10% of all mined amber) is often found with natural impurities and inclusions in it and pure fully translucent chunks are rare and highly valued. Small transparent yellow chunks (0.5 – 1 inch long) can be found along the shoes of the Baltic Sea in Kaliningrad (Russia), Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark. Often yellow amber is specially treated and purified with high pressure. Inclusions are normally found and also very visible in this kind of amber.
Black amber (about 15%) is basically any color of amber high in content of natural inclusions such as debris, plants, soil. It is attractive because it has natural rough look. It is sought after by people who want to get Baltic amber for its healing properties. Black amber naturally mixed with butterscotch is particularly valuable as it is not that rustic and rough, but still very organic natural appearance.
White, or Royal White
White amber is especially rare (about 1-2%). It is also called “bony” or “royal white” for its unique texture. White amber is praised for the decorative swirls in butterscotch, grey, green, honey or blue hues which create one-of-a kind decorative effects. White amber is never treated as it is praised for its natural beauty.
Butterscotch, or matt color is fairly common – about 60-70% of all amber. It is distinguished by its cloudy look. It is non-transparent or semi-transparent. Butterscotch amber is often heated at high humidity to reach so-called “antique” color: yolk, or caramel. Butterscotch color ages beautifully due to natural oxidization and turns darker and darker reaching the color of yolk.
Antique, or Yolk
Antique color is obtained by slow heating of butterscotch amber for several days or even weeks. Antique color can also be natural, but depending on climate the process may take between several years or decades. It is almost impossible to say whether this or that antique amber was treated or aged naturally. Antique color vary from light caramel to brick color. It is sometimes called “red”.
Naturally green amber is very rare (about 1-2%). It looks more like olive oil color and isn’t bright. Green amber is fully translucent and often has natural inclusions and fossil insects. Heating and autoclaving yellow amber allows to make more intense green color with sparkles and discs. The cabochons carved out of this amber are covered on the back with special dark green veneer. This treatment allows to create an interesting variation of treated amber.
Cherry color in its natural form is quite rare (2-3%). This color is archieved by heating translucent and non-translucent varieties of amber. Cherry amber beads can be polished or non-polished. The last variety allows to give amber very natural look.