Prospecting is something jewelcrafters can do to turn ore into raw gems. It takes 8 seconds of pure casting time to prospect a stack of ore, as well as whatever time it takes you to look all the gems out of the four loot windows that entails. It can't be legally automated, so that makes prospecting the semi-porous membrane between the ore and raw gem markets. Without this barrier, the relationship between the prices of ore and raw gems would be more like the ore and bars in which unless you have a small market with no active miner auctioneers, the price of bars isn't usually much more than the ore that went into making it.
As it is, you may often find the price of ore is much lower than the gems you get from prospecting it are worth, even if you just sell them raw on the auction house. The reason for this is that mining ore is hard enough, and many times, miners will just throw their wares into the AH and rely on the market to snap up any ore below the price where prospecting is profitable. Also, unless these miners happen to be (or have) jewelcrafters, they may not exactly know what their ore represents in terms of raw gem money. Enter Wow Prospector, which allows you to input the price per ore and for the raw gems, then output whether it's worth prospecting.
Okay, you got me. I've talked about these guys before. It was long enough ago, though, that it's definitely worth another look (and yes, it's updated for Cataclysm ores). Calculating the value of prospected ore is fairly simple if you know the specifics of how the raw gems drop, but it's a little annoying to do by hand. That's why many AH players use addons like Ore Crusher or spreadsheets like the Stormspire Ore Shuffling spreadsheet. There's an investment of time for these options, which are certainly worth it if you take that time. If, however, you want to know whether you can profitably prospect Elementium ore, you can get away with the simple approach. Wow Prospector is nothing if not simple.
I can handle simple
While it would be nice if the mod started pulling the data for your realm from something like The Undermine Journal, what it has now is certainly fine. You simply have to know how much each raw gem is worth to you. The UJ can give you a market value for selling it raw, or if you have some special value, you can just use that instead. Here are the reasons I don't just use the market value for the raws:
- Sometimes I plan on making too many for that market value to remain accurate for long.
- If I am exposed to the price of certain high-demand gems, I'll consider the increased profits from cutting them when I consider the price of the ore. For example, I have hundreds of yellow uncut Cataclysm gems, but I sell every red that crosses my path. This means I'm willing to buy ore slightly more expensively, because right now, I'm paying whatever the AH charges me for uncut reds.
- You can vendor cut gems. This is a big deal for Cataclysm gems, as the much more common green gems are worth considerably more than the much rarer blue-quality gems.
Maximize your profits with more advice from Gold Capped, plus the author's Call to Auction podcast. Do you have questions about selling, reselling and building your financial empire on the auction house? Basil is taking your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.