This weekend I decided to tackle Zen Jewelcrafting, both the recipe list and the leveling guide. More than any other profession, Jewelcrafting has been a case of extremes. It's a combination of insanely easy topped off with probably the hardest and most labor-intensive sprint to the finish. Now that I've scared you to death, let's jump in :)
The first thing you should know is that the JC trainer in Pandaria has more recipes than the trainers in the older cities. This is rather unusual since most of the other profession trainers have basically the same stuff. The Panda trainer has the JC-only gems as well as the high end jewelry recipes. If these items are important to you, make a point to visit Mai the Jewel Shaper in Jade Forest. She's at the Greenstone Village which is directly north of Dawn's Blossom.
The current epic gems are still yellow at 525, as are the PVP jewelry patterns. If you want to use those items for early skill points you certainly can, they will turn green at 530. If you'll need to purchase ghost iron to level up, this may be a good way to save on materials. On the other hand if you plan to collect your own ore then I don't think I'd bother trying to save yourself from a handful of Panda gems.
Once again Desade has been running the leveling process with me and we were both able to get through the portion that uses uncommon gems with a dozen stacks of ore. For my test I prospected 72 uncommon gems and used 69 of them. I also got 14 rare gems from the same ore.
I could give you guys a leveling progression list, but honestly there's no real need for that. All of the recipes you learn at 525, 530, and so on, will take you all the way up to 575. Every one of these recipes stays orange until 575. You can make whatever you want and get skill points for the first 50 points of progression. Making jewelry gets you 3 skill points for 3 uncommon gems. Each gem cut gives 1 skill point. What you choose to make is up to personal preference. If you feel you can sell jewelry more easily than uncommon gems, make that. You get the same skill point to gem ratio either way. It was ridiculously easy to level through this phase.
When you reach 575 most of your new recipes with turn yellow. The only recipes that are still orange are the Research recipes and the second set of jewelry recipes learned at 575. The most efficient use of materials at this point is to continue cutting uncommon gems. I went through 7 gems on the next 5 skill points and another 15 after that (for Desade 9 cuts to get 4 points). The uncommon gem recipes will be gray at 585.
525-575: Uncommon gem cuts | Ornate Band | Shadowfire Necklace
575-585: Uncommon gem cuts (may use 1-2 dozen gems here)
585-588: Research recipe
588-600: Cut rare gem learned from research
Once the bulk of your recipes are gray, that is the time to use the research recipe. It gives you 3 skill points and teaches you a rare gem cut. At this point you have a few options for capping based on your personal goals. The easiest way to reach 600 is to use your daily research CD every day for 5 days, that will get you the 15 remaining skill points. But obviously this will take 5 days. The next option would be to wait until the research CD expires at midnight and learn a second cut, giving you two different recipes to use. You can also farm 3 Spirits of Harmony so you can learn a second recipe off the cooldown. Or you can just use the one recipe you have and make those until you reach the level cap. Leveling up your Alchemist to help with transmuting gems is also an option.
From easiest to hardest:
1) Use research for 5 days to level up the last 15 skill points
2) Wait for the CD reset at midnight, cut rare gems with 2 recipes.
3) Farm ghost iron ore until you have 9-10 rare gems of the same color
4) Farm motes of harmony until you have 30 to learn a gem cut off CD
Depending on how quickly you want to get this done, you can use as little as 15 stacks of ore, or as much as 50 stacks of ore. It all comes down to whether you go with option #1 (slowest, least ore used) or option #3 (likely fastest and most ore needed). If you're interested in going for a Realm First (or power leveling for other reasons) I have more details on the effort involved in speed capping below.
Realm First Tips
Based on some problems I ran into during my own leveling process, I'm going to suggest that you do not choose your research recipe based on personal preference. If you want a Realm First, you're going to have to pick your first research recipe based on how the gems fall. I made the mistake of picking a random research recipe which turned out to be the color I got the lowest number of in my prospecting. Instead you'll want to collect ore and prospect gems until you get at least 9 of the same color (I went for 10 to allow a bit of room for error). I tested this process to see how much ore it would take to hit that number. I also tried to mock up a "worst case" scenario.
First I prospected until I got 10 rares in one color. For me the rubies were dropping with the highest frequency, but it still took 28 stacks of ore to get 10 of them. Towards the end I hit a lucky streak where I actually got 3 rubies in a row. Meanwhile my numbers of the other rare gems were still notably lower. It felt kind of like a weird fluke, so I decided to keep going until I hit 10 gems of a second color. I had to prospect another 19 stacks of ore before I reached 10 same-color gems for a second gem type.
The main purpose of this test was to figure out how long it might have taken without the lucky streak. I think from this we can see that you should be prepared to prospect as much as 50 stacks of ore to get enough rare gems for the push to the end. The variance between colors can be pretty high. From the 48 stacks of ore that I prospected, I had 14 rubies and only 7 amethyst. That's a deal-breaking difference if you picked the wrong color in advance.
My general advice would be to go with researching one gem recipe + prospecting as your game plan. My tests this week indicate that farming SoH could take 2-3 hours for each one. That would translate to about 9 hours of killing mobs to get a second research recipe. On the other hand, if the ore is reasonably available, you should be able to collect 50 stacks of ore in 3-4 hours. So unless the ore spawns are just horrible, I would stick with this plan.