Dungeons & Dragons Online

The approximate weight of the standard 1,000 GP emerald

Tl;Dr: the approximate weight of the standard 1,000 GP emerald is 23.6 carats, or 4.72 grams (roughly 0.01 pounds)

Bit of a disclaimer at the beginning here: I am solely a player. Though I want to try my hand at DMing, I have not done so yet, so DMs in the crowd can take this near-rant with a grain of salt. Also, any time this post makes an assumption, I will state such at the point of making or approaching said assumption.

So, a bit of backstory. I'm trying to come up with the exact weight my character is carrying. This is fine and well for all of the stuff with standard weights, but I have an emerald. Gems in general are considered "negligible weight". I'm sure most people would leave it at that, and I probably should have, but instead, I decided to look at just how much it probably weighs.

Let's make our first assumption: the rough time period of when DnD takes place is the 15th century.

For simplicity's sake, I'll go ahead and say that a typical DnD campaign takes place sometime during the 15th century. Different campaigns address this very differently, but if I were to account for every variation here, I'd be spending days on this, not hours. Besides, the historical prices I found (more on that in a bit) are from between the 14th and 16th centuries, so might as well meet in the middle.

Second assumption: the value of a gold piece is $196.50 (2021 USD).

This has been done ad nauseum all over the place (including this subreddit), but I'll go ahead and use these drastically different values ($25USD to $300USD) as a starting point, to make sure I'm not too far off base.

The daily wages of a thatcher– according to the Medieval Sourcebook on medieval prices– ranged from 4.5 pence in the 1400s to 6 pence in the 1480s. Other professions that required marginal skill, or skill that could be obtained by an apprentice, are about this range as well, at least if we extrapolate from the late 14th century. These can be estimated to be the 1 SP cost of a day's work from a laborer. The 1440s are square in the middle at 5.25 pence, so I'll use that as a rough equivalent for the purposes of simplicity.

I'll be honest, checking DnD prices to real-world historical prices to see if this matched up was a mess, and it just resulted in such wide disparities that I personally don't think it's worth trying to normalize it.
You could write a whole paper on it, and while cheaper commodities were close, more expensive commodities, as well as food, drink, and lodging, were way off. Apparently the purchasing power of the average laborer in DnD is abhorrently low, or the prices set forth by inns and merchants are outrageously high. As people have said, DnD's economy does not make sense, whether by historic or modern standards (though I may take my research that I attempted to do and make a rough system of more accurate prices for a campaign I'm starting to write). Suffice it to say, I'm going to take the lazy way out, and just ignore the DnD prices, and only use wages. Please. For my sanity's sake.

If we use this converter, we can see that 8s, 9p (105 pence)– or 2 gold pieces– in 1450 would be equivalent to £273.18 in 2017. A quick currency conversion, inflation calculation, and division-by-two gives us $196.50 per gold piece. There, piece of cake (er, gold).

Third assumption: the basic emerald-as-treasure is cut and of Very Good quality and VS clarity.

There are all sorts of tables out there that convert gems of different qualities to GP, and I'm going to ignore all of them and just assume the emerald is Very Good quality and VS clarity. This is the middle tier of quality gemstones, and is probably the highest quality anyone could get in the 15th century (oops, an unnumbered assumption, just roll with it).

Fourth assumption: the price per carat scales in DnD the way it does in the real, modern world.

I did some exponential regression based on this chart of emerald prices per carat, which gave me a line of best fit of y=2998.6276e^(0.2356x). We're gonna drop everything but the exponent, since we'll calculate the other bit based on the next parts.

Fifth assumption: Sydney H. Ball's works on gem prices describe stones of Very Good quality and VS clarity.

I found two works of his: a study on diamond prices from 1150 to 1927, and a study of the prices of multiple gems from 1800 to 1935. Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive list of emerald prices dating back further (that I can find), so…

Sixth assumption: Sydney H. Ball's observations of diamond prices relative to emerald prices hold true with equal ratios in both the 15th century and the 19th century, since he ranks the diamond and ruby as worth more in both time periods.

… and one last assumption…

Seventh assumption: the line, "the price of cut diamonds prior to 1609 was not surpassed until the end of the World War," means the price from 1150 to 1609 fits a linear regression.

Okay. The bulk of my assumptions are out of the way. Let's math.

The line of best fit of the values provided by Hall would put the price of a 1ct cut diamond at $71.97 (in 1927 "U.S. Gold") in 1450, or about $1,131.53 in 2021 USD.

Though the values aren't given exactly and the graph is a bit fuzzy, the emerald seems to have a value of roughly $35 (1934 USD) per carat for 1ct emeralds in the year 1823 (well within the 1801-1872 timeline of the lead held by the diamond), and in 1820, the average price per carat of 1ct diamonds was $54 (1927 USD). Some inflation calculation gives the ratio of 1:0.84 for the price of diamonds to emeralds at that time. This would put the price per carat of an emerald in 1450 at $952.24 (2021 USD) for a 1ct emerald. This equation gives us the value to plug in for our exponential equation I found earlier. As the historical scaling is now found to be y = 752.362e^(0.2356 x), we just need to plug in the value of 1,000 GP and we'll be set!

This gives us a value of 23.6 carats, or 4.72 grams (a tiny bit over 0.01 pounds). Huh, wouldn't you know, it really is negligible. If you become overencumbered from having one of those on your person, you have bigger inventory problems.

Still, by gemstone standards, that's pretty honkin' big. If faceted gems are present in the DnD universe, that could be an idealized 20.5 x 14.6mm emerald cut, but it's probably an oval cabochon (perhaps about 21 x 14 mm?).

Feel free to correct my math, or to make fun of me for going to all this trouble (six hours worth, if we include wasted research trying to prove the GP valuation made sense) to determine my emerald is next to nothing, weight-wise.

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