Aqueous colloidal solutions of well dispersed YVO4:Ln (Ln = Eu, Nd) nanoparticles are synthesized through precipitation reactions at room temperature. In the case of YVO4:Eu, a luminescence quantum yield of 15% is found, which is not as high as in the bulk due to the existence of residual crystalline defects and nonradiative relaxations from the hydroxylated surface. Appropriate hydrothermal annealing and deuteration of the surface allow to rise the yield up to 38%. Incorporation of the nanocrystals into a transparent silica matrix is achieved through preliminary coating of the particles with a functionnalized silicon alkoxide and further dispersion into a sol-gel precursor solution. Such sol-gel materials doped with YVO4:Nd nanocrystals are transparent and exhibit the typical emission at 1.06 μm of the Nd3+ ion.