Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the deposition of amyloids in the brain. One prominent form of amyloid is composed of repeating units of the amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide. Over the past decade, it has become clear that these Aβ amyloids are not homogeneous; rather, they are composed of a series of structures varying in their overall size and shape and the number of Aβ peptides they contain. Recent theories suggest that these different amyloid conformations may play distinct roles in disease, although their relative contributions are still being discovered. Here, we review how chemical probes, such as Congo red, thioflavin T and their derivatives, have been powerful tools for the better understanding of amyloid structure and function. Moreover, we discuss how design and deployment of conformationally selective probes might be used to test emerging models of AD.