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Gem Economics in Diablo 3

Now that I’ve reached level 60 and beaten Inferno the majority of my time spent in Diablo 3 is grinding/farming for items and gold.  Gems are a common drop and sell as a commodity on the AH.  Up until now I’ve just been putting up what I get as drops on the AH or putting them into slots in my character’s armor but as a left-brained nerdy person I recognize that there’s best practices that should be followed to maximize returns on these gems.

Enter gem economics.  To the best of my knowledge as of patch 1.0.3 the only gems that drop in Inferno are squares and flawless squares so these are the two I wanted to examine further.

Squares are the more common and as such sell on the auction house for very little above what you can get from a vendor.  In fact, after you factor in the 15% auction house tax you can only make 1-5 gold per gem and surprisingly some people seem to actually be selling squares on the auction house for less than what they would get for vendoring them — that’s after the mandatory 15% of course.  Because you are only allowed to auction 10 items at once [which is an absurdly cap] I decided my two choices were to either vendor the items or to combine them into flawless squares.  Considering that currently the cost of one Tome of Jewelry is ~1200 gold which alone is more than the cost of any one flawless square that option was immediately canned and I now vendor all square gems.

Onto flawless squares.  This is where things get fun for super nerds like me.  Flawless squares and all higher ranked gems all sell for significantly higher than their vendor price on the auction house and they sell fast which means they’re all worth auctioning.  The question I had to ask myself was whether it made more sense to sell the flawless squares as they were or to combine them into higher ranked gems and sell those.  The follow up questions being: if I combined them, how high should I combine?  All the way to radiant stars or should I stop somewhere earlier?

I tried to eyeball a few prices and it seemed apparent that there was a pretty noticeable range of profitability between gem ranks.  I decided the question I really wanted answered was given an infinite amount of flawless squares, what is the most profitable method of selling them and decided the best way to answer this question was a simple spreadsheet.  Here’s what I came up with (click to enlarge the image)

Gem Economics

You’ll notice that all variable values are in blue and I acknowledge that like any market the Diablo 3 auction house will ebb and flow, however I had to ultimately just take a snapshot in time and use current prices to get my answers.

A few things jumped out at me immediately:

  • There are actually three gems that will result in selling at a loss: perfect square rubies, star rubies, and perfect square topazes — the astounding part here is that there are players who are actually doing this.  The counter-point is obviously that they bought lower than the current price and are now unloading but the fact that gems move so fast on the auction house combined with the fact that these aren’t top ranked gems means it was asinine for the players to sell them rather than combine them for a more lucrative profit margin.  I suppose they just didn’t have access to a spreadsheet
  • For amethysts, emeralds and rubies the most lucrative profit is with the top ranked variant; radiant star.  Topazes are the exception to the rule with their most lucrative being the the second ranked variant with top ranked being a close second place.
  • For a player on a budget who can’t afford waiting to get enough gems to create a radiant star, combining to the rank of radiant square and selling is likely your best rule of thumb.

Anyways a lot of text to simply say that a simple spreadsheet can quantify your strategy for things like that and players who don’t take advantage are leaving money on the table or potentially even taking a loss.

What do you think?  Will you use this data to change your gem strategy?  Did any of the numbers surprise you?  Let me know in the comments.

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