The Burning Crusade gave us a new feature to play with for gear optimisation.
Gems, and obviously sockets to stick them in.

Currently the game counts about :
* 16 Meta gems.
* 33 Red
* 30 Yellow
* 17 Blue
* 44 Orange
* 28 Green
* 34 Purple
* 2 Prismatic
Most crafted from about 4 varying rarities of 6 different colors of gems.

Common quality gems are available trough vendors and give +4 stat points, at a price of 2g without reputation discount.

Uncommon quality gems are widely available from miners, nagrand, random drops etc. Just bring them to your guild's Jewelcrafter or check the AH. Generally these are cheaper (30-50s) than the common gems from vendors and give +6 stat points. Easy choice yes?

Rare quality gems are where things get complicated. The gems can be obtained in a few ways, but the patterns are more difficult, and above all costly as any Jewelcrafter will be able to tell you. Most patterns are only available as World Drops, and a few are available from vendors for reputation. There's also a few of them on limited quantity from public vendors. You can expect to pay between 20-80g for most of the rare gems with +8 stats.

Epic quality gems are available in a few ways as well. Some are heroic drops, pvp vendor, bind on pickup JC only patterns, or most interesting from patterns found in Hyjal and Black Temple. +10 stats can make a big difference when you have a lot of sockets in your gear.

Some stats are more valuable for their ilvl than others, so expect to see variations.
Attack power is about half as valueable as agility for instance, so a blue gem might give you +8 Agi, or +16 AP, and there are other variations.

What does it all mean?
Well, if i take my own gear as a baseline, then i have a total of 12 sockets and a Metagem.
12 times +8 stats = 96 Stats
12 times +10 stats = 120 Stats

A staggering difference of 26 stats.
26 stats = 26 Agi, 33.8 Stamina, 55 Healing, 30 Spell damage or 52 attack power as example. (True values may vary slightly)
Now, from a rogue point of view, in terms of hit rating that's 1,65% Hit. Or calculated about 12 DPS. (Varies per spec)
Some of you may be aware of using AEP (agility equivalence points) to size up the value of rogue gear.
When Agility = 1 point, Hit rating about 1.12, Attack power 0.45, etc depending on spec.
On a baseline of 26 stat points the difference between taking Hit rating or Attack power is 0.22 per stat point. (1.12-(2*0.45))
26 * 0.22 = 5.72 stats. A few dps, which will add up in the long run.
I used Rogue Raidcal for getting the base AEP values.

I think it's not unlikely that Wrath of the Lich king will also be offering us gems to play with, and Inscription though not much is known about that yet.
Will we be seeing common gems with +8 stats as a baseline from vendors? Time will tell, not much point in speculating about that now. Lets just say i'd be VERY suprised if they decide not to add gem sockets in the new gear.

Meta Gems
Meta gems are a bit more special than normal gems, they are valued as about 20-24 stat points in terms of point calculation.
One such example is the "Relentless Earthstorm Diamond", or RED for short. It gives 12 Agi, and increases all critical melee damage by 3%
Compared to a meta with only 24 AP, the RED is obviously the clear choice for any physical damage class.

Recommendations for PvE
Not including heroic gems.

Always try to take +Str gems over +AP gems if you're a melee class that gets +2 ap as these will scale a lot better with buffs such as Blessing of Kings.

Rogue :
Red : Glinting Noble Topaz - Glinting Pyrestone
Yellow : Rigid Dawnstone - Rigid Lionseye
Blue : Shifting Nightseye - Shifting Shadowsong Amethyst
Meta : Relentless Earthstorm Diamond

Hunter :
Only going to link the rare quality gems here, as the epic versions shouldn't be too hard to find.
Red : Delicate Living Ruby
Yellow : Smooth Dawnstone / Wicked Noble Topaz
Blue : Shifting Nightseye / Infused Nightseye
Meta : Relentless Earthstorm Diamond

Warrior / Enhancement Shaman / Feral Druid / Retribution Paladin :
Same as the hunter bit, these are just the rare gems.
Red : Bold Living Ruby
Yellow : Smooth Dawnstone / Rigid Dawnstone
Blue : Jagged Talasite / Sovereign Nightseye
Meta : Relentless Earthstorm Diamond

I fear i can't speak much for casters yet and even some of the above suggestions are open for debate or may vary on your talent build, common sense gets you a long way.
Most dps casters however tend to simply flood their sockets with +spell damage gems such as Runed living ruby. With the occassional deviation to activate a meta gem.
For caster metagems there's Chaotic Skyfire Diamond for DPS, and Bracing Earthstorm Diamond for Healers.
Activating a metagem may mean you need to play around with different gems in your gear, but it's generally well worth it.

Meta gems that can be obtained from the Terrokar Spirit shards are nice enough for blue levelling gear, but in the end they are plain and simply inferior to any of the crafted ones. There's always Boar's Speed or Cat's Swiftness available if you need the movement speed. Quite tricky to get those recipes though.


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