Normal Armor and Weapons
You can find normal items everywhere throughout all difficulty levels of the game. Also, you can find them by gambling or at town merchants.
Exceptional Armor and Weapons
Exceptional items have their Character Level requirement around level 25. There are Magic, Rare, Set, Unique, Socketed and Crafted versions of these items. They appear in the later Normal difficulty levels and they become more frequent at higher difficulties. You can find Magic Exceptional Items at the Town Vendors and Rare Exceptional items through gambling.
Exceptional Armor Items provide improved Defense but they require more points in the Strength attribute.
Regarding exceptional weapons, they provide a higher Minimum and Maximum Damage, but they require more points of dexterity and strength. In addition, these type of weapons provide more +skill points, and higher level spells and skills.
Elite Weapons and Armor
Elite items have their character limits at 39-73 levels. There also Crafted, Socketed, Magic, Rare, Set, and Unique versions of these items. They appear for the first time in the later stages of Nightmare level and then more frequently as you level up. You can find Magic Elite Items at the merchants and Rare Elite Items by gambling.
Elite Armor Items offer increased Defense with a cost of higher Strength requirement.
Elite Weapons provide better Average Damage but they require more points of dexterity and strength. Weapons provide higher level spells and skills and more skill points as well.
You can identify Socketed items because their names appear in grey letters (when highlighted). You can find them in Normal or Superior Quality. After you complete the first Quest of the Act 5, you will be able to socket any item that allows sockets. In addition, there is a Horadric Cube Formula that allows items to be socketed.
In order to insert a gem in a Socketed item, you have to left-click the gem and then left-click the item to fuse them. This way, you can customize your weapons and armor with improved stats and magical properties.
The only items that you can socket are Helmets, Shields, Armors, and Weapons (except throwing weapons). In later, more difficult stages of the game, items with more sockets appear. The maximum number of sockets is 6 for a Weapon and 4 for Armor. This also depends on the rarity of an item:
- Magic Items: up to 4 sockets
- Rare Items: up to 2 sockets
- Set and Unique Items: they are limited to 1 socket. However, there are some Set and Unique Items that allow for one more socket as a default ability.
Gems, Jewels, and Runes
Gems provide useful magical effects when you socket them into an item.
Jewels don’t have predetermined magical abilities like the Gems, but each Jewel offers its own wide variety of magical effects for the socketed item.
Runes look like small stones with some magical glyphs upon them. They differ from the Gems and Jewels as specific combinations (or Rune Words) provide an item with even more powerful and unique abilities.