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Diablo 3 Build: Gems, Accessing the Hidden Fortune in Your Stash

Posted 1 Dec 2012 by

I recently spent some time upgrading and updating the DiabloWikigems page in the wiki, and it sent me on a wild expedition through the land of gems, the Auction House, upgrading costs, and ultimately yielded me some surprisingly fat profits for what seemed like very little work. This article is all about Diablo 3 gems, their value, their sale prices, where you can make good profits buying, upgrading, and reselling them, and how you can extract millions in hidden value from your own stash and current equipment.


Diablo III Gem Changes

One thing I had forgotten is how much gems have changed over the course of Diablo III’s development. I organized and updated all of the older details in a Gems Archive section on the wiki page, and it’s a fascinating read full of old screenshots and Blue quotes. Do you guys realize that Diamonds and Sapphires were in the game until just before the beta, and that many of the current gems had *very* different properties back then? When we first saw gems, Emeralds in weapons granted increased casting speed, Rubies increased spell damage in weapons and block % in helms, Sapphires granted life leech in weapons, Amethysts granted IAS in weapons and +all attributes in “other,” and so on.

Old Sapphire styles for Diablo III.

It’s easy to see how very different the game was even that close to release, and personally I hope they throw it all much more wide open like that in the expansion. As AlexanderBarin pointed out so clearly in his lessons from the top, sockets absolutely make or break weapons and helms, and while helms have a number of good socketing options (though I think Emeralds need to do at least double their current Gold Find to be viable), weapons in the end game are entirely about Emeralds.

This is not just conjecture, either. The prices in the AH bear it out, and when I started researching some of those while putting together a big table showing the cumulative costs for every level of gem upgrade, I was surprised to see just how much more Emeralds cost and sell for than the other gems.

The full table can be seen on the Gems page in the wiki.

Click through for much more…


Current Gem Values in the Auction House

To put the numbers into context, realize that the main costs of making a high level gem are the gold upgrade prices for each level of the gem. The raw ingredients of lower level gems and Tomes of Secret are just a drop in the overall bucket, and I was surprised to realize just how small a drop in how large a bucket. For instance, as of yesterday afternoon on the US GAH, the prices for recent trades for each type of Flawless Gem were roughly:

  • Amethyst: 300
  • Emerald: 4400
  • Ruby: 1050
  • Topaz: 360
  • That seems a perfect demonstration of a free market. It’s prices fluctuating with demand; you find all types of gems in equal/random numbers in Diablo III, Flawless Squares are the highest quality of gem that drops, and yet one kind, since it’s what everyone wants in their weapon (or Demon Hunter/Monk “Other”), has more than 10x the gold value of two other types. So higher level Emeralds must sell for a lot more than the other types, right?

    Not really, and that goes back to the fact that the bulk of the price of a higher level gem comes from the Jeweler upgrade costs. Here are the current prices from the US GAH for Radiant Star gems, the highest quality level:

  • Amethyst: 18.4m
  • Emerald: 22.1m
  • Ruby: 20.1m
  • Topaz: 20.2m
  • Bear in mind that the listed gem prices are imprecise. It’s a bit like buying real gems, where there are hidden markups and price adjustments that spring upon you at the last moment. The reason for this is that jewelers are vultures preying on human emotions and the stupid male desire to impress our girlfriends with sparkly trinkets that… *cough* Sorry, flashback there. What I was saying is that commodity prices are imprecise in the Diablo III Auction House since the AH shows what you’re going to pay right then, but it also shows the price of that commodity for the past day and the past 10 sales, and your actual price is somewhere between those figures. Most times you buy a commodity it’s delivered to your stash along with some thousands of gold in a refund, and you have to go back to your original purchase price and subtract the gold to figure out what you actually paid. Those gold refunds do not show in your Completed tab, so you’d have to mark them down at the time to keep track.

    The prices vary quite a bit in even short amounts of time. As I spent some time yesterday buying and upgrading and selling (at a profit) gems, and here are three buys I made a few hours apart, with the number of Flawless Square emeralds, the price paid, and the actual cost per stone, taken from my Auction House completed tab:

  • 506,699 / 111 gems = 4564.85 per gem.
  • 290,648 / 72 gems = 4036.77 per gem.
  • 1,566,765 / 333 gems = 4705 per gem.
  • What happened on that middle one? Sudden glut of Flawless Square Emeralds flooded the market and dropped prices? You get a better deal when buying smaller quantities? Bobby’s guest mansion experienced a power surge which temporarily disrupted the automated price gouging of the Auction House? Dunno. Mystery!


    Turning Gems into Profit

    So what do you do with gems? You upgrade them, of course, and as I alluded to earlier, higher level gems sell for a lot, but most of that price goes into the upgrade costs, and it’s all about the cumulative expense. Here’s what it costs to create the big one, a a Radiant Star gem, of any type:

  • + 400k gold + 20 Tomes of Secret + 3 Perfect Star gems.
  • That’s not so much. 400k gold and 20 Tomes? Practically free!

    Yes, but those 3 Perfect Stars are the choking point, when you consider that each of them cost 5 million gold and 537 Tomes to create. So the actual cost for one Radiant Star gem is 15,400,000 + 1631 Tomes + 729 Flawless Square gems.

    What do Tomes of Secrets cost, you’re wondering? Here are 3 bulk buys I made yesterday:

  • 348984 / 888 = 393
  • 322455 / 777 = 415
  • 288116 / 666 = 432.6
  • Whenever possible, all quantities in Diablo III should be purchased in a lot of 666 units. Since the gold refund price adjustments aren’t listed in the AH completed tab, what I actually paid probably varied a bit from those figures, so perhaps the price didn’t fluctuate all that much. But taking a price from that midpoint on my ToS and Flawless Square emerald buys, here’s roughly what it’ll cost you to make a Radiant Star emerald and get that delicious 100% Critical Hit damage on your weapon:

  • 729 Flawless Squares x 4400 gold = 3,207,600 gold
  • + 1631 Tomes of Secret x 415 gold = 676,865 gold
  • + Jeweler upgrades: 15,400,000 gold
  • = 19,284,465 gold to produce one Radiant Star emerald.
  • Since Radiant Star emeralds sell for 22.1m, there’s an easy 3m profit. Just buy the raw materials and get to clicking! Except there’s a 15% fee taken out of sales on the GAH, and 15% of 22.1m = 3315000. Or more usefully, 85% of 22.1m = 18,785,000.

    Yes, that’s 500k *less* than the average cost of the raw materials. D’oh! And it only took you an hour of non-stop clicking on the Jeweler’s upgrade bar. No wonder this sort of labor is generally outsourced to third world nations…

    The math is more forgiving for other types of gems; even though the cost of the Flawless Square gems is much lower than that of Emeralds, the finished gems sell for less as well.

  • 729 FS Topazes x 370 gold = 269,730 gold
  • + 1631 Tomes of Secret x 415 gold = 676,865 gold
  • + Jeweler upgrades: 15,400,000 gold
  • = 16,236,595 gold to produce 1 Radiant Star Topaz.
  • A RS Topaz sells for about 20,200,000 x 85% = 17,170,000 gold to you. So hey, there’s a a million profit for your clicking. Who said gold botting was the only mindless way to get rich in Diablo III?


    Jeweler Plans

    I have not yet mentioned the slight complication of the Jeweler plans. You can only make up to Star level gems (which is the 11th level, or the 4th highest type) with a fully-trained Jeweler. To create Flawless, Perfect, and Radiant Star gems, you need to find/buy those recipes. They seem to drop fairly often in v1.05, at least if you have high Magic Find; I’ve found about 10 of them myself in less-than-intensive farming, with 2 or 3 duplicates that I’d sold on the GAH. Prior to yesterday, I had the 13th and 14th levels Topaz and Amethyst, the 12th and 13th level of Emeralds, and the 13th level of Rubies. Thus I could make Emeralds up to Perfect Stars, but couldn’t make anything else past Star, since I needed Perfect Stars to make Flawless Stars. (Not that I’d found enough gems to make any gems that high.)

    Happily, the plans are affordable. I’m talking 10-20k for the 12th and 13th level gems, though Emeralds cost more. Only the Radiant Star plans are pricey, and those run around 250k each for Topaz and Amethyst, 700k for Ruby, and 2.2m for Emeralds. Given that gem upgrading for a profit operates on fairly narrow margins, any additional expense can take a big bite out of it, and while making a lot of gems would average down the plan price, the Emerald is still damn expensive.

    I didn’t buy it. In fact I didn’t buy any of the Radiant Star plans. I’d already found two (of course they were the two cheap gems, though which gems are most valuable will likely change over time as new gems and functions are added in patches/expansions) of them, so I just bought the other 12th and 13th level plans I didn’t have yet, which let me produce up to Perfect Star gems of all four types. And that was plenty; for one thing I didn’t mind spending 15m clicking to upgrade a gem, since I had a book on tape I was listening to and it was easy enough to play that and just sit back in my chair, with my eyes closed, counting to 3 and left clicking, over and over again.

    Yes, I’m sure that made Jay Wilson very, very proud. It’s exactly the sort of end user experience Blizzard markets their games to create!

    I think my gem upgrading and selling days are done, at least for a while, but if I were doing it more I think I’d use a macro. Yes, that’s a form of bot and I suppose it’s illegal, but come on. I’m fully in support of Blizzard banning gold farmers or people who program bots to play the game for them, but is it really “cheating” to set up macro that clicks your left mouse button every three seconds, so you don’t have to sit there and do it yourself? Buy your gems and tomes, hit the jeweler, aim your mouse at the button, and turn on the macro to run for 5 minutes while you head off to get a snack.

    Let’s count the clicks: 739 Flawless Squares > 213 Perfect Squares > 81 Radiant Squares > 27 Stars > 9 Flawless Stars > 3 Perfect Stars > 1 Radiant Star. That’s 352 clicks by my math, which works out to 43,751 gold per click!

    Okay, I seriously need to put this calculator away.


    Hidden Profits in your Stash

    So maybe you can make some gold upgrading gems, but it really depends on the price you pay for the commodities. You can farm them; finding your old gold, your own Tomes of Secret, and your own Flawless Square gems makes those commodities free, and you might find other item upgrades or sales at the same time. (Also, the time you spend gathering commodities is known as “playing the game” which you do because it’s “fun.” Try to remember that amidst all of your profiteering.)

    The real profit from this, for me at least, came already half-baked, when I realized that I had quite a few gems in my stash and in my gear, and a lot of them weren’t being used. Sure, I had numerous gems up to the Star level in my gear, but I had lots of others just sitting in the stash, stacked on my various Inferno characters, still socketed in old/spare equipment, on Followers, etc. And while I was getting some use/value from those items, a lot of it was wasted, or at least underutilized.

    I couldn’t make up to a Radiant Star gem in Emeralds (since I didn’t have the highest Jeweler plan and didn’t want to spend 2.2m to buy it) and that would have taken far more gems than I had anyway. A Radiant Star requires 27 Star gems, which requires 729 Flawless Stars. I hadn’t found anywhere near that many, but just looking at my Amethysts, which I’d not done much upgrading on, I had over 220 Flawless Square amethysts just sitting in my stash. It takes 243 Flawless Squares (and 5m gold, and 537 Tomes of Secret) to make a Perfect Star gem, which will sell for 6 – 7.5m, depending on gem type.

    That wasn’t a great option for me with Amethysts, but I’d been upgrading every Emerald and most of the Rubies I’d found all along… could I count up all the ones I had, pry some out of unused gear, and turn that into profit?

    Yes. Yes, I could.

    Once I assembled all of my gems and emptied out unused gear, I had 6 Star Emeralds, plus a fair scattering of Perfect and Radiant Squares. I did some quick math (which was harder since I couldn’t find a webpage with good lists of the cumulative prices/materials for gems, which is largely what spurred me to create the one now on the DiabloWikigems page in DiabloWiki.net.) and found that I needed 9 Stars to make a Perfect Star, and that each Star would cost 500k to create. But I already had 6 of them, plus other upgraded emeralds, which meant I’d already spent more than 2/3 of the total cost.

    A Perfect Star emerald goes into the GAH.

    I needed more ingredients to finish though, so I bought 60 Flawless Square emeralds, crafted up enough to make my Perfect Square emerald, and put it on the Auction House. At the auto-set price of 7,568,960. As you can see in the screen, I had 550k to my name at that point. Was this one gem actually worth 13x my current net worth?

    No, not after the 15% gold sales fee, which I hadn’t really considered until then. However the gem sold almost immediately once the auction went live, and soon enough I had 6,433,616 gold sitting in my completed tab, which was by far the largest gold influx I’d ever experienced in Diablo III.

    I deposited it to my stash quickly and felt like running, like I’d just grabbed a sack of money an inept guard had dropped off the back of an armored truck. Could this really be so easy? I’d spent under a million gold and netted 6.4m, and I still had a fair number of emeralds left, not to mention all those Star rubies my seldom-played Barbarian was squatting on, like an ugly hen on a prickly nest.

    Longer story less long… I bought Tomes and gems, and upgraded, and sold. And bought more tomes and gems, and upgraded, and sold. And bought more, and upgrade and sold. It seemed like a license to print money, but not until I’d done 3 more Perfect Star emeralds did I really work out the math (like you see above) and realize that I wasn’t actually making much of a profit on the Emeralds. The raw materials cost too much, once I didn’t have a bunch of Radiant Squares and Stars already sitting around. I did have those for Rubies and Topazes and Amethysts though, so I quickly upgraded each of those (in turn, since I was poor and had to sell each one to get gold to buy materials to make the next) to Perfect Stars and sold them.

    It was fun, and it still pretty much felt like stealing free money.

    Concluding with Economic Logic

    End result? After my last gem sold overnight, one last Perfect Star emerald that I cleared 6.5m on, my stash balance sits at 12.9m. That’s up from about 1.6m yesterday afternoon before I did any gem upgrading or selling, and while most of that 11m gain came from turning old gem upgrades into new gold, it still feels like winning the lottery. I tried to be all objective economist and stuff, but 12m gold vs. a bunch of scattered Star gems in old gear certainly looks and feels like a massive profit.

    Admittedly, I have a few holes in my less-essential equipment, but I can fill them with equivalent gems for a million or two. And really, when you look at the costs involved, most gem upgrading is vanity and DPS epeen. Are you really going to notice if your ring is adding 46 dex vs. 42 or 50 dex? Probably not. Now consider that 46 Dex costs 500k, while going up to 50 dex costs an additional 1.1m, plus another 54 Flawless Squares and 108 Tomes of Secret.

    Another gold saving tip; share your top gems between different characters. Since every class wants an Emerald in their weapon, why not upgrade to one gem and share it around, instead of buying 3 or 4 of them, or making due with 10% less Critical Hit damage on all of your characters, just for the sake of convenience?

    Say you play your Witch Doctor one day, and the next day you want to play your Barbarian. It’ll cost you 10 seconds and maybe 6k to unsocket that Perfect Star emerald, put it in your stash, and then socket it into your Barb’s weapon. Yes, that’s 6k “wasted” but you’re talking about a gem that’s worth well over 7 million gold. You could make that switch 167 times for less than 1m gold!

    The same logic applies to a ruby for your helm. If you’re on a budget you’re better off making one high level ruby to get 27% or 29% or 31% experience and trading that ruby between your characters than you are making 2 or 3 or 4 rubies of a lower level.

    And yes, everything in this article is meaningless if you’ve put in RMAH cash, (10m gold right now sells for $3.60, so scratching and clawing for hours to earn 3m means you just made a whole dollar.) Or if you play a ton and have found great items to GAH and amassed your own riches. But if you’re not so lucky, and you’re trying to do things within the game world itself and you want to stay at least sort of self-found/DiabloWikiIronborn, extracting the gold worth of your old gems can be quite an eye-opener for the sudden boost it’ll provide to your bank account.

    Have fun, and try to decide how you’re going to spend your wealth while you build it. I’ve never paid more than 1.5m for anything from the GAH in D3, and now I’ve got over 12 million. Honestly, I have no idea what to do with it. Any Nigerian princes out there with investment tips?