About UsGet to know us, our story and what we stand for
Icelandic Eider was established in 2019 by its owner and operator, Árni R. Örvarsson, but the story stretches back decades as he is a third-generation eider duck caretaker on a farm called Hraun, where the whole operation takes place. Hraun, which translates to Lava in English, is located in the snowy Fljót Valley on the Troll Peninsula in Northern-Iceland. It is considered to be one of the harshest places to live on the whole island and yet, our eider ducks stay close to the area year-round and nest in our sanctuary in the springtime. If you ever find yourself in Iceland, feel free to drop by at the house by the lake for a cup of coffee!
Árni has been involved with eiderdown for a few years but prior to that, his in-laws gathered eiderdown in the area and put into duvets and other products that they sold. Eiderdown first sparked Árni’s interest in 2017 when his career as a football/soccer player came to a sudden stop due to injury. He was forced to retire and turn to other ventures. Through his in-laws, he got to know the beautiful industry that is eiderdown and saw new opportunities in this age-old industry but with a fresh perspective on how to do things and do things differently. The industry had not changed much for decades and desperately needed fresh, young blood. Árni started by making duvets and kept cost down as much as he could so that locals could afford to purchase themselves an Icelandic eiderdown duvet. Things escalated quickly and the company started making scarves from natural fibers, filled with soft, fluffy eiderdown to keep you warm. Árni has developed new methods and modernized ancient methods, both in caretaking of our eider duck colony in the springtime, in the cleaning process as well as developing new, never-before-seen products. Today, Icelandic Eider offers a selection of eiderdown products as well as exporting eiderdown to our loyal clients worldwide. Our aim is to allow people to enjoy the luxury of eiderdown at affordable prices. We are able to offer better prices due to the fact that everything is made in house, with Icelandic labor and the fact that we use 100% renewable energy in our cleaning process. We test our eiderdown on a regular basis, to make sure we are consistent in our quality and to find new ways in developing our methods even further.
The Common Eiderduck
These incredibly tough yet friendly birds are a common sight along Iceland’s long and windy coastline, but around 900.000 common eiders are thought to reside in Iceland. The Common Eider is a resident bird, which means that it does not migrate to warmer climate during winter but stays in Iceland year-round. To survive the incredibly challenging winter conditions in Iceland these birds have to be resilient and adapt to the ever-changing weather. To keep warm, they use their soft underlayer of feathers, known as down. Before nesting, the ducks feed and fatten themselves up, gaining around 20% weight, to prepare laying on their eggs for up to 28 days without leaving the nest to feed and as a result, they lose around 30-40% of their weight during the nesting period. Each eider duck will lay anywhere from 2-6 eggs during each nesting period.
When the ducks start laying their eggs, in early May, their body temperature will rise by a couple of degrees centigrade. They shed and scrape the down feathers from their chest as well as on their brood patch. The brood patch is essentially a bald spot on the ducks’ underbelly that conducts heat and regulates the eggs’ temperature during incubation. It is a common misunderstanding that it is the down that keeps the eggs warm during the incubation period when, in fact, it is the brood patch, that conducts the heat from the duck to its eggs. This means that the ducks’ nests could be lined with pretty much anything. The ducks will lay on the eggs for up to 28 days and the ducklings will hatch within a few hours of each other. As soon as the ducklings are dry, their mother will take them from their nest and to the ocean, where they will immediately start eating on their own.
WHAT IS EIDERDOWN
Eiderdown is the soft, warm underlayer of feathers from the Common Eider Duck. It is considered to be the most desirable insulator in the world as well as the pinnacle of insulation and only around 3.000 kilograms are picked per year globally. Of those 3.000 kilograms, Iceland’s yield is around 80%. Eiderdown is picked in much smaller quantities in Canada, Russia, the Faroe Islands and Norway as well as a few other countries in the northern hemisphere.
It is the world’s only down that is gathered from a wild species of bird, as well as being the world’s only down that is naturally hydrophobic. A single eiderdown plume consists of thousands of individual barbs, resembling a barbed wire, that stick each plume to another. This makes eiderdown incredibly cohesive and as a result, it sticks together like Velcro.
The International Down and Feather Testing Laboratory (IDFL) conducted a test for us, comparing the popular grey goose down, which is used to fill most down products, to our eiderdown. The test results showed that, “When comparing eiderdown to standard goose down, you will note that eiderdown compresses to a larger degree than goose down, and also recovers better than the goose down. This provides evidence that eiderdown is more durable, making it feel softer while still providing support or loft.”
The result confirms what eiderdown farmers have believed for centuries, that eiderdown is more durable and lasts longer than other down. Eiderdown duvets have been known to be passed down as heirlooms for generations.
Eiderdown is gathered by hand over the first days of June each year. At Icelandic Eider, we process our eiderdown at our facilities, simply known as the “Down House.” In the Down House, the eiderdown is dried straight after picking using geothermal water and heat conductors. The temperature that the down is dried at is around 35°C and will leave the down bone-dry in a matter of hours. The down is then initially cleaned of debris, mostly seaweed, hay and eggshells, but around 60% of the initial weight of the down is debris. After being dried and initially cleaned, the down is baked in a specially made oven at around 130°C to kill fleas and make it easier to clean during the next steps in the process. After baking, it is put through a couple of machines to clean the rest of the debris and most of the feathers from the down. After machine cleaning, our eiderdown is washed, using a specially made odourless eiderdown soap and a specific water temperature. This rids the down of any unwanted smells and other dirt. As the down is drying after washing, at the same temperature as it initially dried at, we pick the leftover feathers by hand. This means that our eiderdown contains less than 1% feathers.
Cleaning eiderdown is a tedious and labour-intensive process and is part of the reason behind eiderdowns high price, as well as it being an extremely limited resource. For comparison, the annual yield of Rhodium, which is considered to be the rarest metal in the world, is around 30 tonnes per year. The annual yield of eiderdown is around 3 tonnes per year, which gives you an idea of how rare eiderdown really is.
Meet Our Team
Erla L. Friðriksdóttir
Árni R. Örvarsson
(+354) 821 0394
Icelandic Eider ehf.