The onset of osteoarthritis (OA)in articular cartilage is characterized by degradation of extracellular matrix (ECM). Specifically, breakage of cross-links between collagen fibrils in the articular cartilage leads to loss of structural integrity of the bulk tissue. Since there are no broadly accepted, non-invasive, label-free tools for diagnosing OA at its early stage, Raman spectroscopyis therefore proposed in this work as a novel, non-destructive diagnostic tool. In this study, collagen thin films were employed to act as a simplified model system of the cartilage collagen extracellular matrix. Cross-link formation was controlled via exposure to glutaraldehyde (GA), by varying exposure time and concentration levels, and Raman spectral information was collected to quantitatively characterize the cross-link assignments imparted to the collagen thin films during treatment. A novel, quantitative method was developed to analyze the Raman signal obtained from collagen thin films. Segments of Raman signal were decomposed and modeled as the sum of individual bands, providing an optimization function for subsequent curve fitting against experimental findings. Relative changes in the concentration of the GA-induced pyridinium cross-links were extracted from the model, as a function of the exposure to GA. Spatially resolved characterization enabled construction of spectral maps of the collagen thin films, which provided detailed information about the variation of cross-link formation at various locations on the specimen. Results showed that Raman spectral data correlate with glutaraldehyde treatment and therefore may be used as a proxy by which to measure loss of collagen cross-links in vivo. This study proposes a promising system of identifying onset of OA and may enable early intervention treatments that may serve to slow or prevent osteoarthritis progression.