The luminescence of the rare-earth ions Eu[sup 3+], Tb[sup 3+] and Ce[sup 3+] in Mg[sub 2]SiO[sub 4] is reported. The Tb[sup 3+] ion shows a change in emission colour from blue to green depending on the charge compensator. This is ascribed to a difference in coupling of the Tb[sup 3+] ion to the vibrational lattice modes. The Eu[sup 3+] ion has an average quantum efficiency under charge-transfer excitation of 60% at 4.2 and 20% at 300 K. The Ce[sup 3+] emission is situated in the blue and shows a Stokes shift of 3 500 cm[sup -1]. The relaxation of these ions in the excited state is discussed in terms of their positive effective charge and the stiffness of their surroundings.