A market snapshot
When looking at the gem market post-4.3, it's easy to focus on Inferno Rubies and their little brother, the Carnelian, because red gems are by far the most expensive. But if you're prospecting for gems yourself (as opposed to buying the raw gems on the AH and then cutting them), only one-sixth of the gems you'll find will be red. Indeed, determining the profitability of jewelcrafting requires you to consider the average of all six gem colors.
Rare gems World average as of Dec. 11 (courtesy AHSpy)
World average as of Dec. 11 (courtesy AHSpy)
For those too lazy to do the math, that works out to an average price of about 64g for a blue-quality gem and about 21.5g for a green-quality one.
The gravy train
To be fair, the increase in the prices of rare gems -- especially Inferno Rubies -- shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. Any new patch that includes 5-man instances or a new raid is bound to drive demand through the roof, especially in the opening weeks. Level 85 players are getting a lot of gear upgrades, many of which need gemming. And thanks to the Raid Finder feature, some of these level 85 players are going through a series of upgrades in the same gear slot.
We see these kind of jumps in gem prices any time there's a new tier of content available. And similarly, we know these jumps are usually short lived. Prices are going to be high and stay high for several weeks. But as the patch wears on, fewer people will be getting upgrades, and gem prices will return to normal levels.
The moral of the story: Don't make any long-term decisions based on this short-lived spike in demand. Jewelcrafting isn't any more profitable now over the long term.
Profits again gated behind work
If you're looking for an easy score as a jewelcrafter, you may want to forget it. Lazy JCs can make money, sure, but the real money is had through prospecting
. It's similar to inscription
For that reason, jewelcrafting tends to be a profitable endeavor at most times of year. It's hard (and boring) for one person to satiate an entire server's demand for gems, even if jewelcrafting is all he does. That makes it an easy market to get into for newcomers.
Most of the Cataclysm
-era jewels you see on the Auction House were born through the process of prospecting -- that is, taking Cataclysm
-era ore and destroying them to find raw gems. There are three different types of Cataclysm
ore, and they all prospect into gems at different ratios:
Obsidium Ore ~24% chance for each common gem; ~1.25% chance for each rare
Elementium Ore ~18% chance for each common gem; ~5% chance for each rare
Pyrite Ore ~18% chance for each common gem; ~7.5% chance for each rare; 100% chance for one to three Volatile Earth
Note that the above shows the chance of getting a specific common gem. Each prospect has a 100% guarantee to create at least one gem, and occasionally, a prospect will yield more than one. The math isn't simple, but a decent rule of thumb allows us to add together the odds and estimate.
Obsidium Ore 5.76 commons and 0.3 rares per prospected stack
Elementium Ore 4.32 commons and 1.2 rares per prospected stack
Pyrite Ore 4.32 commons, 1.8 rares, and 2 Volatile Earth per prospect
If you're looking for rares, you're best off grabbing Elementium or Pyrite Ore. If you're more interested in common gems, Obsidium Ore is your best bet. Using the server average prices we discussed earlier and the average prices for stacks of ore (88g for Obsidium and Elementium, 150g for Pyrite), we find:
Should I prospect?
Obsidium 130.3g prospected - 88g raw = 42.3g profit
Elementium 169.7g prospected - 88g raw = 81.7g profit
Pyrite 211.3g prospected - 150g raw = 61.3g profit
If you're spending your time prospecting low-priced Elementium, then you're probably going to see a 100% return on your investment. That's pretty darn similar to the return of milling.
But don't just jump into the deep end without understanding the risk. While the most popular gems -- Inferno Rubies, Carnelians, and Ember Topaz -- will sell all day long, less-popular gems like Dream Emeralds and Alicite may fester on the AH, even at competitive prices.
It's also important to consider each step of the profitability of each step of the jewelcrafting process individually. If ore prices spike, it may become unprofitable to prospect, even if the secondary step of cutting gems is a moneymaker.
Finally, if you do decide to take the leap and try to cash in on high gem prices, take a look at some addons to minimize the time you spend on the most tedious steps. For prospecting, I really like the Panda
addon. Just make sure to turn on your auto-looting option if you're spending any length of time prospecting. It's in the Interface menu: Interface > Controls > Auto Loot.
Maximize your profits with more advice from Gold Capped. Do you have questions about selling, reselling, and building your financial empire on the auction house? Fox and Basil are taking your questions at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.