Almost a year after the daring robbery that saw the iconic jade boulder stolen from outside the Cariboo Jade Shop in Cache Creek — and its recovery nearly two weeks later — the final piece of the puzzle has been found.
When the 3,000-pound boulder was first put on display outside the Jade Shop by then-owner Ben Roy in 1985, a specially-commissioned sign explaining the boulder’s origins and history sat on top of it. When the boulder was stolen near midnight on Dec. 19, 2020 the sign was stolen along with it, but when the boulder — and an excavator used in its theft — was found near Deadman-Vidette Road west of Savona, the sign was nowhere to be found.
“We wondered what had happened to the sign,” says Heidi Roy of the Cariboo Jade Shop. “It wasn’t found with the boulder or excavator, or up Deadman, so we wondered if the thieves had kept it as a souvenir.”
The boulder was put back on display in the shop in May 2021, after it was decided that putting it back in its original spot outside the front door was too risky. Then, in early December, someone came into the shop and asked Roy if they had ever found the sign that went with it.
“We said no, and she said that she’d noticed a sign at the side of the highway on the way to Kamloops that said ‘B.C. Jade’ on it. She said she’d seen it two or three times, and asked if it was a billboard.”
The woman gave a description of where she had seen the sign, past the Savona lookout on Six Mile Hill and on the right hand side of the highway as it headed downhill towards Kamloops. Roy headed that way with her nephew Rylan, and sure enough, they caught a glimpse of it. There was nowhere on that side of the road to stop, so they made a note of roughly where it was and stopped on the way back from Kamloops.
“We scoured the hillside and found it, propped the right way up on one side of a ravine,” says Roy, adding that she thought it was strange it was propped upright like that, and even stranger that no one from Cache Creek or Ashcroft travelling the highway had spotted it before then.
“Was it face down, and someone like a hitchhiker turned it right way up?” she wonders. “Or maybe a highways worker saw it. It seemed so obvious where it was. If someone had just thrown it out a window it would be upside down, but it was the right way up and propped on the hillside. You’d think someone would have spotted it before now, but for months and months no one saw it.”
Roy says that where it has been, who had it, and how it got to where it was found are all mysteries. The likeliest explanation, she says, is that the thieves — having got rid of the boulder and excavator up Deadman on the night of the theft — were spooked by the police road check that was set up in Savona.
“Maybe they got through that and then thought ‘Let’s get rid of the last piece of evidence.’”
She says that the sign — which she describes as not being in fantastic shape to start with — is a little the worse for wear after its ordeal. “It’s a little more faded, and has a couple of nicks on it. We’ve put it in front of the boulder; we can’t put it on top now, since the boulder is lying flat.”
Jade Boulder — who has written of the robbery and its aftermath in two columns for the Journal — was emotional when asked about the return of the sign.
“It’s as if a part of me has been missing, which might sound odd, since I’m just part of a much larger jade boulder myself. But we’d been together for more than 30 years, and you develop a relationship, you know? It’s always been the two of us, no matter what life threw at us, so to be separated like that was a real blow.
“It’s been wonderful to be back at the shop, and everyone has been so kind,” continues JB. “But now, to be reunited like this, and at this time of year: it’s just the best Christmas gift a boulder could ask for.”
Roy says that since the boulder’s return, lots of people coming into the shop have asked about it specifically.
“It was a novelty thing when it was on the steps, but not really a destination or draw like now. There was wide media coverage of the theft, so people are aware of it and want to stop and see it.
“People ask ‘Is this the famous boulder?’ It certainly got a lot of attention and the story lasted in people’s minds, and they come in looking for it.”
She adds that while she would have preferred charges to be laid against the thieves, so they faced some sort of consequences for what they did, the recovery of the sign is a conclusion of a sort to the story.
“Now we have all the pieces back, and that’s something.”