Jacqueline de Rothschild was raised in the Château de Ferrières in the country in Île-de-France and at a home in the city in what is known as the "Talleyrand Building," a mansion at 2 rue Saint-Florentin that today is part of the United States Embassy complex in Paris. According to her 1988 memoir, Jump in the Waves, her parents were cold and distant and left her upbringing to an indifferent nanny. As a result, she grew into a timid, near-reclusive, young woman who at age nineteen married publisher Robert Calmann-Levy (1899-1982), a distant relative. The marriage ended after five years in 1935 and two years later she married the renowned cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. Their daughter Jephta was born in France in 1937 but the family had to flee the country in the wake of the Nazi occupation during World War II. Jacqueline de Rothschild and her husband settled in Elizabethtown, New York in the Adirondack Mountains where their son Joram was born in 1940. They lived in Philadelphia for several years before moving to Los Angeles in 1949 where her husband taught at UCLA and at the University of Southern California.
As an American citizen, Jacqueline Piatigorsky won numerous national tennis championships but her passion for the game of chess led to a second career during which she represented the United States in the first Women's Chess Olympiad, at Emmen 1957, where she scored 7.5/11 on second board and won a bronze medal. In the 1960s, she was the highest USCF-rated female chess player in California and ranked No. 2 in the United States. In addition to participating in the game, Piatigorsky became a sponsor and tournament organizer. In 1963 at the Ambassador Hotel she staged the first Piatigorsky Cup in which Tigran Petrosian and Paul Keres tied for first place. The California Chess Reporter called it the greatest tournament held in the United States since the 1920s. In 1966, in Santa Monica, Boris Spassky won the second Piatigorsky Cup Tournament with second place going to Bobby Fischer.
Piatigorsky is also a patron of the arts and in 1985 created an endowment for the New England Conservatory of Music to provide the "New England Conservatory/Piatigorsky Artist Award" which gave the recipient a cash prize and a series of concert engagements.
In her forties she developed an interest in sculpting and arranged to take lessons from a professional, Anthony Amato. A Los Angeles area gallery put on the first exhibition of her works in 1976. Widowed at the age of sixty-five, she has continued working and playing tennis into her nineties.