Insider Trader: A diamond is forever -- a consumer's guide to gems

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Insider Trader: A diamond is forever -- a consumer's guide to gems
Insider Trader is your weekly inside line on making, selling, buying and using player-made products.

Got empty slots sitting wide open on your gear, simply because researching gem possibilities is so infuriatingly time-consuming and confusing? Get ready to get socketing! Our handy consumer's guide to gems will steer you to savvy selections in no time. While jewelcrafting can sound confusing as all get-out, we've rounded up some convenient tools and handy reference lists that simplify the process of figuring how to slot your gear with gems that work for you.

In The Burning Crusade, Blizzard introduced jewelcrafting and the ability to augment items with gems. Many higher-end items feature sockets designed to be slotted with player-cut gems. A jewelcrafter can cut these gems, which grant your gear additional stat and effect bonuses. What color? What cut? What stats? What about meta gems? You need to figure out what's available, what works best for your gear and how to get your hands on what you need. Let's get to work ...

I just looted my first slotted item. How do I know what will fit in the slots? Slotted items come with any combination of four types of sockets: red, yellow, blue and meta. You can fill the various colored sockets with any color of gem you choose. If you fill every gem slot on your item with gems of each slot's corresponding color, you'll get added bonuses. Some of these bonuses are definitely worth aiming for, while others seem less valuable than the benefit of the effects you'd get from "mismatched" gems.

Some head armor has a special kind of socket called a meta socket. You can only fill a meta socket with a special meta gem. We'll talk more about meta gems later.

What are my choices in gems? When you begin looking for gems, you'll be looking for three things: color category, specific cut (or "design") and quality/rarity. The most common way to categorize gems is by color categories. Gem colors give you an idea of what attributes they give.

Gems come in the same color categories as gem slots on gear – red, yellow and blue -- plus three secondary gem colors. The secondary colors are green, orange and purple. (Again, we'll talk about meta gems for head items later.)

You might also hear people using color-specific language when talking about the quality of certain gems: green (uncommon), blue (rare) and purple (epic). Don't confuse gem color with quality "color"!

What does each gem color do? A gem's color tells you what type of attributes it gives you. Here are the primary color attributes:
  • Red Agility, attack power, dodge, healing, parry rating, spell damage
  • Yellow Critical strike rating, defense rating, hit rating, intellect, resilience, spell critical rating, spell hit rating
  • Blue Mana per 5 seconds, spell penetration, spirit, stamina
Secondary-color gems (green, orange and purple) are a blending of two primary color categories. As such, they give you attributes from each of their parent primary color categories and provide bonuses when equipped in slots of either of parent color. It's not as complicated as it sounds -- think back to your school days, when you learned that blue + red = purple. A purple gem, therefore, offers both red-type and blue-type attributes and can be slotted for a bonus in either a red or blue slot.
  • Green = blue + yellow
  • Orange = red + yellow
  • Purple = red + blue
Where do I get gems? There's a difference between gems and jewels. Jewels, which cannot be cut into a socketable gem, are found in mining nodes (or by jewelcrafters with the prospecting skill). Gems, which can be cut into socketable gems, are found in mining nodes in the Outlands (or by prospecting jewelcrafters). If you're not a miner or a jewelcrafter, you can pick up gems as loot, as PvP and quest rewards, or most commonly, by buying them from a vendor, a jewelcrafter or the Auction House. Gems now have their own category in the Auction House. If you're buying from the AH or a jewelcrafter, you can buy them uncut or already cut into the specific type of design you're looking for.

Insider tip: Most uncommon ("green") gems go for just a few gold each, making them affordable options for filling slots and experimenting with attribute combinations. Rare ("blue") and epic ("purple") gems run 50g and up on most servers, so you'll want to plan carefully before locking these babies into your gear.

How do I get my gems cut, and how do I know what type of cut I need? To get raw gems cut into socketable gems, you need a jewelcrafter. Different gem cuts ("designs") produce different attributes. Most jewelcrafters deal in both precut and uncut gems. You can bring your own gem to a jewelcrafter when you're ready for a specific cut, or you can buy precut gems directly from jewelcrafters or the AH.

This is the stage where many players get lost in the possibilities. Don't get sunk before you get started! There are several convenient ways to "shop" the possibilities.

Browse reference lists on the web.
Install a mod to help you browse online.

Perhaps the easiest way to shop is in-game with a jewelcrafter who uses a "!" mod.

I have my gems and I'm ready to slot them. What next? The next part is your show – you're done with the jewelcrafter's services. You can slot one socket at a time, or do a whole item's worth at once. Blizzard offers a fantastic step-by-step visual guide on how to perform the slotting process.

Remember that you can put any color gem into any color slot – but by doing so, you won't get the bonus associated with matching all the slots with their corresponding colors. It's up to you to decide whether the balance of the attributes you can build up from individual gems outweigh the value of the "set" bonus.

Can I remove a gem after I've already slotted it? Once you've slotted a gem into your gear, you're committed. You can slot another gem on top of it, which both replaces and destroys the old one. Note that you can try out different gems in the equipment slots before pressing the button to actually slot them.

Can a jewelcrafter add another slot to my item? Jewelcrafters cannot add sockets to an item. What you see is what you get!

Let's talk about meta gems. Meta sockets are special slots that appear only on head items. They can only be slotted with special meta gems; you can't tuck a regular, colored gem into a meta socket until you get a meta gem. Meta gems offer more powerful attributes, bigger combinations of attributes and/or special "extras" such as run speed.

You can slot any meta gem into a meta socket – but unless you've met the socketing requirements, you won't get the added bonus. Meta gem bonuses require that you already have a certain number of certain colors of gems on your other equipped gear.

A couple of points to remember when adding it all up:
  • A gem does not have to match its socket color in order to count toward the meta gem bonus.
  • Secondary-color gems count as both of their corresponding primary colors for the purposes of meta gem requirements. For example, a purple gem counts as both a blue gem AND a red gem when tallying up meta bonuses. Another example: five orange gems on your gear would indeed activate a meta gem bonus requiring five red and five yellow gems.
What are your experiences and questions using gems? Share your comments below and help us take the sting out of figuring out how to use gems.

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