Discrete nanodiamond particles of 500 nm and 6 nm average size were seeded onto silicon substrates and plasma treated using chemical vapor deposition to create silicon-vacancy color centers. The resulting narrowband room temperature photoluminescence is intense, and readily observed even for weakly agglomerated sub-10 nm size diamond. This is in contrast to the well-studied nitrogen-vacancy center in diamond which has luminescence properties that are strongly dependant on particle size, with low probability for incorporation of centers in sub-10 nm crystals. We suggest the silicon-vacancy center to be a viable alternative to nitrogenvacancy defects for use as a biomarker in the clinically-relevant sub-10 nm size regime, for which nitrogen defect-related luminescent activity and stability is reportedly poor. © 2011 American Scientific Publishers.