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Gold Capped: Is prospecting still worth it?

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Gold Capped, in which Fox Van Allen and Basil "Euripides" Berntsen aim to show you how to make money on the auction house. Feed Fox's ego by emailing him or tweeting him at @foxvanallen.

The jewelcrafting shuffle used to be an incredibly lucrative way to make money. It was simple: You went to the Auction House, bought out the stock of ore, and then hit your prospecting key as fast as you could. You'd craft what was profitable to craft; you'd vendor the raw gems that weren't otherwise useful. And because the vendor value of the raw gems was almost always more than the value of the Elementium or Obsidium Ore prospected to get those gems, we had a no-lose situation. A jewelcrafter's risk was 0; the profit potential limited only by the amount of time you had to waste doing the "shuffle."

Of course, that was prior to patch 4.2. After the patch, each green gem (for example, Zephyrite) saw its vendor value slashed to a mere 50 silver. The days of the jewelcrafting shuffle were over. But still, the days of profitable jewelcrafting still live on.

This past week, my Gold Capped tag-team partner Basil opined that patch 4.3 will bring epic gems. He's probably right, but that doesn't mean you have to bide your time, stockpiling Pyrite Ore until patch 4.3 to make some serious money as a JC. Let's take a second look at the old jewelcrafting shuffle and see if we can still find profit hiding in the jewelcrafting profession.

The old shuffle

Before we get too deep into today's column, let's take a look at the old shuffle and how it worked. Both then and now, we knew the average prospecting returns for each stack of ore:
  • Obsidium Ore prospects to six green-quality gems per stack, and rarely, a blue-quality one.
  • Elementium Ore prospects to four green-quality gems per stack and one blue-quality one.
  • Pyrite Ore prospects to four green-quality gems, one and one-half blue-quality gems, and eight Volatile Earth.
At a minimum, each of the green-quality gems could be vendored for 9 gold apiece. This created a floor, a value at which there was no risk to prospecting. For Obsidium, it was ~54 gold per stack; for Elementium, it was ~39 gold.

Of course, when patch 4.2 hit, green-quality gems couldn't be vendored for 9 gold anymore. The floor disappeared, and with it, so too did the halcyon days of the risk-free shuffle. A lot of people simply stopped doing it.

The shuffle still works

Patch 4.2 removed the risk-free element of the shuffle, but it didn't remove the profitability of it. While green gems don't get vendored anymore, they're not worthless. A lot more work is required now; some of the lesser valued gems now need to be crafted instead of vendored to squeeze value out of them. But still, the value is there, even if you have to work harder to realize it.

Carnelians

Then Carnelians (red) were the most valuable of the prospectable greens. They sold for a good chunk of money on the Auction House -- often about 20g on my server. Their most valuable use, however was as reagents. Carnelians would often be sent to an alchemist alt (to make Inferno Rubies), or they'd otherwise craft Carnelian Spikes. The Spikes would then be sent off to be disenchanted into valuable Greater Celestial Essences.

Now Very little has changed aside from the fact that Carnelians -- and their products -- are more valuable. I typically find that creating (and disenchanting) Carnelian Spikes is much more profitable than making Inferno Rubies on a transmute-spec alchemist, but your server may be different. Three Carnelians and three Jeweler's Settings still create a Carnelian Spike, which ultimately disenchants into about two Greater Celestial Essences and one Hypnotic Dust on average. (That doesn't take into account any bonus from the Bountiful Bags guild perk.)

Zephyrite, Jasper, and Nightstone

Then Because Zephyrites (blue), Jaspers (green), and Nightstones (purple) are all required for the jewelcrafter dailies, the best use of these was often to just sell them raw on the Auction House. (Alternatively, many would just vendor Zephyrite when the AH price was near 9 gold.)

Now There are still jewelcrafter dailies, but prices of these gems have diverged greatly. Typically, Nightstones sell the best on the Auction House. They sell for about 13g each on my server, though The Undermine Journal suggests Nightstones typically sell for more on others.

Jasper still sells well on the Auction House too, though generally for less than Nightstones and often less than its old 9 gold price floor. Nowadays, however, I find better returns from crafting and disenchanting Jasper Rings. These disenchant into, on average, about two Hypnotic Dust and 0.5 Lesser Celestial Essence each. Because each Jasper Ring only requires one Jasper and one Jeweler's Setting, I typically find a stronger return from crafting rings than selling raw Jasper once you factor in Bountiful Bags and the value of the occasional blue-quality ring crafted.

Zephyrite? Well, these are absolutely worthless without a vendor floor -- often only around 3 or 4 gold each on the auction house. If you have a huge quantity of these, you are likely best off listing these solely on days when Nibbler! No! is the jewelcrafter daily. If you have a lesser quantity, you may be better off holding on to them to turn them in for dailies yourself.

Alicite and Hessonite

Then Alicite (yellow) and Hessonite (orange) were typically vendored to grab a quick 9 gold each.

Now Obviously, vendoring these is no longer an option. Alicite is still somewhat valuable, however, as a reagent for crafting Alicite Pendants. Like Jasper Rings, these disenchant into about two Hypnotic Dust and 0.5 LCEs on average, though they do require two Alicite to make.

Hessonite, too, can be used as a reagent to create Hessonite Bands. You need two Hessonite and one Jeweler's Setting to make one. You typically get slightly more mats from disenchanting Hessonite Bands than you do from Alicite Pendants and Jasper Rings.

... or, alternatively

As suggested by commenters, it is quite profitable on many servers to just transmute 3 of each kind of green gem using Transmute: Shadowspirit Diamond. Just be careful -- the meta gem market can be easy to saturate.

Doing the math

Looking over the list of green-quality gems, you can really only pick out one real casualty of the vendor price drop -- Zephyrite. All the other gems that were usually sold to vendors can be turned into rings or necklaces that disenchant for mats valued near, at, or above 9 gold. For would-be shufflers, that's good news: Ore is easily as valuable now as it was before to the jewelcrafter, if not more so.

If you're still a bit skittish about returning to the shuffle, you don't have to jump back into the market blindly. There are a few great tools you can use to calculate the profitability of prospecting on your own server:
  • The Undermine Journal, of course, is an amazing resource for the jewelcrafter. Simply visit its jewelcrafting-specific page (for your server!) and scroll to the bottom. You'll see a listing of both ore prices and the value of what you can get by prospecting. As of midnight on Aug. 29, 2011, prospecting stacks of Obsidium Ore and Elementium Ore offer a return of about 100% on my server. A lot of work goes into getting value out of your prospects, but the reward is terrific.
  • WoW Prospector is another terrific utility site that anyone can use regardless of server. Simply visit the site, plug in the current AH values of the ore and resulting gems, and the site will run a basic calculation to tell you whether prospecting is worth it, and just how profitable prospecting a stack is. (Note: While using the site, enter the value of one piece of ore, not a stack of it.)
Neither of those pages will give you a perfect tally, since they're relying on the values of the resultant gems and not what you can do with those gems. That simply means that they'll estimate value on the low side.

To get the absolute top value out of your prospecting, you'll want to pair it up with a synergistic profession -- usually enchanting. If you don't have an enchanter alt, try to hook up with someone from your guild who is. For even further profits, turn those enchanting materials into scrolls that are profitable on your server.

Of course, failing all that, you could still just buy the raw ore and sell the raw gems you get from prospecting it on the Auction House. That's almost never the most profitable way to go, but on most servers, it seems to be a surprisingly profitable road to (modest) riches.
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 fox@wowinsider.com and basil@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Economy, Gold Capped

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